My friend, Matt, loves the Pittsburgh Penguins.

He grew up in Western Pennsylvania, and so he loves the Steelers and the Penguins.

I love him anyway.

Matt looked at the Penguins’ schedule for this winter and he discovered that his favorite hockey team played in Chicago on November 20.

He got us tickets.

He didn’t know then, nor did I, that the night of November 20 would be special for both of us, and a lot of others.

Last Sunday night was the night that the Blackhawks had chosen to retire Marian Hossa’s #81 and to hang in the rafters at the United Center.

And we were going to be there for that.

Hossa’s family came out and took their places in their chairs next to the front office brass for the ‘Hawks.

Then one by one, the seven Chicago Blackhawks players who were on the roster for the Stanley Cup championships in 2010, 2013 and 2015 were welcomed to center ice.

Niklas Hjalmarsson.

Duncan Keith.

Brent Seabrook.

Patrick Sharp.

Current ‘Hawks Jonathon Toews and Patrick Kane.

And just as we were ready for the man of the hour to make his way out, there was one last thing coming that caught us all by surprise.

The master of ceremonies, former Blackhawks broadcaster Eddie Olczyk, spoke words that froze me in my seat.

He said the ceremony to celebrate the career of Marian Hossa wouldn’t be complete without including the Stanley Cup.

Have you ever heard the sound of 23,000 people gasping out loud at the exact same time?

I would have, but I couldn’t hear it over the sound of my own voice saying, “he said what???”

And there it was—the most prized possession in all of sport.

Lord Stanley’s holy grail.

The Stanley Cup.

It was being carried by its handler from the Hockey Hall of Fame. It glowed in the shafts of light beaming down from above. It may have been the shiniest thing I have ever seen in my life.

I could not speak.

I could barely breathe.

I didn’t dare blink.

The next thing I do remember is muttering “the Cup is here…I am in the same room as the Stanley Cup.”

The Cup was placed on the round table with a red cover and black stripe around the bottom.

It sat there, so big and tall, in all its regal splendor. It was ready for “Hoss” like the rest of us.

And out he came.

Hossa walked out from the tunnel at the end of the rink. The roar that erupted in that moment was so loud and strong that you could feel it vibrating your chest.

He stopped to wave, and we cheered louder.

He turned to face the other direction, and we cheered louder still.

Hossa greeted each-and-every person gathered around the faceoff circle at center ice, then glanced up into the rafters to wave to the men and women whose praise cascaded down on him uninterrupted and unchallenged.

He spoke in broken Russian English the way we’ve always heard him, and his sense of humor was as unwavering as his skill on skates.

He’s as good as any two-way hockey player that ever lived.

He deserved a night like Sunday night.

In fact, all Blackhawk fans deserved it.

It took us back to a time when the Indian Head Sweater was the most feared sight in all of professional sports. It was sports excellence. It was the living example of what “paying the price” looked like.  

And we lived it.

That era is over. There is a lot more losing than winning going down on West Madison Street these days.

But for a few minutes—a few precious, fleeting minutes—the frustration of what “is” surrendered to the glory of what was the golden era of sports in the City with Broad Shoulders.

Hossa and those six guys did that, together.

The roar will never forget them.