As Jaeger Robertson celebrated his 26th birthday in the upper rows of the United Center for a February Chicago Blackhawks game against the Detroit Red Wings, the then DePaul senior and his girlfriend noticed photographers taking pictures of the couple.
“They took a ton of pictures of us at random moments and they came up to us after asking if we would sign release waivers,” Robertson said. “I think to myself, ‘it’s too bad I’ll never see those anywhere.’”
Little did Robertson know that it would eventually lead to what he calls “the most surreal moment of his life.”
Robertson’s face, accompanied with his thick, full beard, ended up being the face of BMO Harris’ postseason campaign for the Chicago Blackhawks. His picture — posted on programs, posters around the city and even billboards on the highway — drew the attention of his friends and family with the tagline “Chicago, the beards are back in town.” To Robertson’s surprise, the waivers he signed were used for a purpose after all.
It was a neat, little story Robertson could tell, but his girlfriend of five years had a different idea in mind. On Thursday, Tricia Papanton, Robertson’s girlfriend, emailed all the higher-ups of BMO Harris she could find.
Her email was simple and thoughtful: Papanton was hoping the company could help surprise Robertson for his graduation with two tickets to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, where the Blackhawks had the chance to clinch its third Stanley Cup in six years.
The company came through.
A day after his graduation, Papanton rewarded Robertson with the greatest surprise of his life — two tickets in section 113, row 8 of the United Center for a thrilling 2-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“Words really can’t describe it,” Robertson said. “To be there and see the energy of it… It was a dream come true.”
Papanton said she wasn’t expecting BMO Harris to respond at all, or if they did, that it was an impossible task considering the astronomical prices on the secondary market.
But on Monday morning, a public relations spokesman put Papanton on a conference call with the company’s executives. They loved the idea and bought the couple two tickets, on the secondary market no less, with the only stipulation of asking if they could film the surprise.
And at 5 p.m., Papanton gave the tickets to Robertson at Halligans Bar, a Lincoln Park bar the couple always watched Blackhawks games together.
“I told Jaeger that I forgot my lipstick at our apartment, which is right on the corner, so I had to go grab my lipstick,” Papanton said. “He totally believed it since he knows I don’t go anywhere without my lipstick or purse. I went outside and got mic’d up (for the video) and then we went inside and I told him what was going to happen.”
The news brought Robertson to tears. However, the tears soon disappeared and the couple were headed to the United Center. They were driven to the game in their own limo as well.
After the win, the couple was even escorted to Wrigleyville to party with the thousands of people in the streets.
“It was the most amazing weekend of my life,” Robertson said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better. It was a long time coming.”
Robertson, who was born in Illinois, transferred to DePaul for the 2012-13 school year after spending years trying to find himself. He previously attended College of Wooster for a year before transferring to College of DuPage while working full time to sort out what he wanted to do for a living.
He settled on majoring in information systems, but while doing so, he discovered a passion and love for the Blackhawks. While Robertson holds dual citizenship in Canada and went to high school near Toronto, Robertson didn’t grow up a hockey fan.
It wasn’t until he moved to the city of Chicago that he grew attached to the Blackhawks.
“I feel almost like a bandwagon fan, but not really since I know I’ll be a Blackhawks fan for life now,” Robertson said. “I started watching at Halligans and so many places with my friends.”
Robertson and Papanton said they both plan on being at the rally parade Thursday. Since being a fan, Robertson has enjoyed two Stanley Cups in his three years of watching. But it’s the second one — and being there — that he’ll remember most.
“Living in the city and (going to) DePaul, it encapsulated everything,” Robertson said.