STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Pro hockey's Chicago Blackhawks have played 24 games without a loss in regulation time. They defeated the Colorado Avalanche last night. That gets the Blackhawks to the midpoint of the season with 21 wins, no defeats in regulation, three losses in shoot-outs or overtime. It's a league record start for the team that last won the Stanley Cup in 2010, possibly a big deal for a sport playing a season shortened by a lockout.
NPR's David Schaper is a lifelong Blackhawks fan, and just happened to be at last night's game. Hi, David.
DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.
INSKEEP: So how do Blackhawk fans mark themselves? Is there a Chicago equivalent of the cheese head or something like that?
SCHAPER: Well, I guess we could all wear puck heads. And there's a lot of red or black Blackhawks jerseys around town these days, and certainly at the United Center, a lot of joyous people who were a little turned off, you know, by the lockout that kept us away from hockey for quite a while. But people are thrilled. This is a remarkable streak thus far. You know, the Blackhawks seem to have everything going right, all at the same time.
They've got great goal-tending, which is one of the big question marks coming into this season. Their star players are playing great hockey. But even the supporting players have been outstanding, too. I think they now have had had, like, 12 or 13 different players score the game-tying or game-winning goals during this 24-game streak. So it's like a different guy, different - each night. They've had great coaching, as well.
INSKEEP: Who was the guy last night?
SCHAPER: The guy last night was Daniel Carcillo. This is a guy who's really known for his physical play, not his scoring touch. He's been hurt quite a bit this season and missed a lot of last season with injuries, too. And he nonetheless scored this game-winning goal with just 49 seconds left. And he talks about how this team has just pulled together and gained confidence throughout this streak.
DANIEL CARCILLO: You know, resiliency or perseverance, whatever you want to call it, there's a belief in this locker room that no matter what position we're in, we can come back.
INSKEEP: So he's in a good mood, despite the late start to the season. How did the lockout affect this team as they prepared to go into this season?
SCHAPER: Well, I actually think it was a little bit of an advantage for the Blackhawks. And one of the reasons was during the long labor dispute, many of the Blackhawk players stayed in Chicago and trained together during the lockout. The team made very few player changes during the offseason. So when the labor dispute was finally resolved and the lockout ended, they had just one week for training camp.
But these guys had already been playing together, and they played pretty much all together all last season, too. This is still the same core group that won that Stanley Cup three years ago, still here. So they weren't getting to know each other during the shortened season that other teams still may have to do. So it's really made this team gel together, and they've been quite fun to watch.
INSKEEP: I suppose Blackhawks fans have all but forgotten the lockout at this point.
SCHAPER: Well, yeah. For the most part, they're getting there. As one of them, I was very resentful about the lockout. I didn't think it should have happened. And I felt like the league was taking advantage of these hardcore, dedicated fans who love the game so much. And they just figure that we'll just come back when the game comes back to see these best players. And, well, you know, sure enough, they get on a roll, and even though, you know, I only...
INSKEEP: They were right.
SCHAPER: Yeah. I was only - I'm one of these guys who only goes to a couple of games a year, and I had sworn I wouldn't go to a game this year, but I've already been to two.
INSKEEP: OK. David, thanks very much.
SCHAPER: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's David Schaper in Chicago, where the Blackhawks have gone 24 games without a loss. And one of the things David heard at the game last night was this song.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE HOCKEY SONG")
STOMPIN TOM CONNORS: (Singing) Hello out there. We're on the air. It's hockey night tonight...
INSKEEP: This hockey song has been played at arenas everywhere, and yesterday, we're sorry to tell you, the man who wrote and performed it died. Stompin' Tom Connors was 77. On Twitter, Canada's prime minister wrote: RIP, Stompin' Tom. You played the best game you could play.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE HOCKEY SONG")
CONNORS: (Singing) Oh, the good old hockey game is the best game you can name. And the best game you can name...
INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.