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Jul 04

Lisa Malman: Blackhawk Rising: Chicago’s Sport Legacy

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America’s Most American City

It’s easy to take a look at Chicago and call it a winning city these days. Obamatown is where the White Sox took the 2005 World Series title, the Bears made it to the Super Bowl, the Bulls stormed the NBA playoffs, and the Blackhawks swept up their second Stanley Cup victory in four years this past week. Barring the Cubs – because it’s cute to do so – Chicago has a magnificent sports legacy which has flourished for over a century and given rise to the popularization of growing franchises like Major League Soccer with the Chicago Fire. A melting-pot of multiculturalism, progressive political movement and one of the world’s most important hubs of trade and commerce, the Windy City is often dubbed the nation’s “most American” metropolis. From the turfs of Wrigley Field to the rising scrapers of Michigan Avenue, it’s easy to see why. And maybe that is why Chicago’s sports teams are so driven to reach the top – it’s about pride, determination, and the belief that dreams do come true.

Named “Best Sports City” three times in the past two decades by Sporting News, Chicago is a buzzing hub that has become a playground for athletic prowess, from the casually-jogging citizen to the avid competitor. It’s got pro sports teams in all the major leagues, four venues and a speedway, and is home to some of the most talented male and female athletes that the nation has on offer. Its great tradition of sporting events continues to build each year, with occasions like Blackhawk’s Night at Wrigley Field

. Just like its North American neighbors, the very core of the city is moving towards creating more spaces for its people to get the most out of urban lifestyle, and a big part of this is integrating sport and accentuating what is already a rich and exciting heritage; it’s practicing good sportsmanship with its Chicagoans.

See, it’s not all about the pros – Chicago likes to keep its folks healthy. A healthy infrastructure equals a healthy heart, and this is reflected in the well-being of the people who tread the sidewalk, cycle along the shoreline, or take a ball to the court. Athletics is at the core of the city, and once you get past the intimidating skyline, it reveals itself as a fascinating network of diverse communities which can be explored and enjoyed by all ages. Its bicycle map alone is pretty impressive, with more than 170 miles of bike lanes and several off-road pathways and is heralded as one of the best programs in the country with numerous other developments to come, according to the City of Chicago. The Chicago Public Schools’ Sports and Athletics program is open to all students who wish to excel in team sport and individual fitness, and is an essential component of the region’s academic ethic with high standards in football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and soccer.

Fitness Promotion

Recent years have also seen the increase in programs whose sole purpose is to promote healthy eating and exercise. Starting with early ages, campaigns have been advocating more fitness regimes to be added to the curriculum as well as increased access to good, quality food at school cafes. The rest of the community has followed suit, with the likes of Healthy Dining Chicago offering advice on good eating

to studios providing inclusive activities like outdoor yoga, which is filling the parks around the downtown with enthusiastic participants of all backgrounds. It’s also turning into a profitable industry, with gymnasiums and fitness stores popping up each year and sales rising in exercise equipment, sporting clothes, and protein foods for building tone and muscle

. Just like the fast-paced persona which for which the city has become so distinctive, the people of Chicago are in motion and loving it – and those who are struggling to get in gear are seeing more chances to jump into shape as well.

Keeping It On the Ice

With its decorated history in professional sports and the continued subsidy of sports programs for youth, Chicago has a sturdy sports foundation which offers a promising future. Unfortunately, the recent cutting back of the public school system could be partially detrimental to this, and this is why the Blackhawk’s Stanley Cup Victory is so important. In fact, it couldn’t have come at a better time. In a world where more and more pro league teams are recognizing the intrinsic value of community involvement, the Blackhawks are passionate do-gooders

. Supporting five charity initiatives which support youth domestic violence prevention, they also help out at hospitals, promote a greener living, and encourage fitness through playing fun sports like hockey, like their “Hockey Is For Everyone” program. This is a team whose local involvement keeps kids on the ice and off the street and gives them something to believe in, becoming the heroes of the community and inspiring future generations. Winning the Stanley Cup this year is only a small part of everything that the Blackhawks do, but its glory – highlighted by the fact that the Blackhawks are shortening to the time between trophies – is affirmation of Chicago’s destiny as a sports center whose achievements are earned through the cultivation and accessibility of local sporting talent, perhaps even driving it towards an ambitious future Olympic bid. So if there is one thing to take away from all of this, it’s that hockey is one of the many ways in which a community can not only thrive but enrich itself, and that amateur sports are just as crucial to the backbone of society as are the pros. Take that big Cup to Wrigley Field and savor it – because this victory is one which means a heck of a lot to its fans and future players.

~~~Lisa Malman, Contributing Author