Well, smiling and encouraging them to grow beards in conjunction with the NHL playoffs.
As you might suspect, this little beard-off has become the subject of some good-natured ribbing around the office. And face touching, too, which seems inappropriate now that I think about it.
It seems we're on the precipice of a very scruffy spring and early summer, especially if Martin Havlat and Johan Franzen can continue their hot play.
On a more serious note, the Blackhawks' playoff run is a very tangible reminder why sports captivate us. A year ago, finding a Hawks game on television was more difficult than killing off a 5-on-3 power play (or a more appropriate hockey analogy that eludes me for the moment). But now, the energy of the fan base is inspiring Chicagoans who couldn't tell you the difference between hooking and slashing to get behind the team. There's something about the immediacy and tension of playoff hockey that captivates even the casual fan.
To the east, the Red Wings are looking like the team from Iceland in "Mighty Ducks 2," destroying everything in their path without regard for anyone's feelings. Jokingly, I told Kevin that they'll win 16 straight en route to a Stanley Cup. Maybe it's not so much of a joke anymore.
This is a franchise with a penchant for long postseason runs, so advancing to the conference semifinals is a yearly tradition. So, it's refreshing to see the Blackhawks backers celebrating the team's first playoff series win since 1996.
Maybe Red Wings fans shouldn't take them for granted. Winning ain't easy.
As winter weather persists in Chicago, the optimism surrounding the young Hawks continues to heat up. Our own Neil Hayes says that this team has no intention of getting complacent.
Any Blackhawks fans joining us in beard-support may have just gotten more than they bargained for, but I doubt they aren't complaining. As for their wives/girlfriends/significant others? Well, that's a different story altogether.
The Hawks have turned into one of the best stories in sports. Name another team that has turned things around so quickly both in the athletic arena and in the community? Much has been made of the ownership change, of John McDonough being named president, of home games being televised and of long-alienated fans returning in droves, allowing the Hawks to lead the league in attendance. Chicago went from a hockey graveyard to a Mecca in less than two years.
Winning a playoff series for the first time since 1996 validated it all. These cute little pups suddenly have teeth. Sharp ones.