Wednesday, 9 June 2010

How Good It Must Feel

The photo to the left has Bobby Hull basking in jubilation as the moments count down in the 1961 Stanley Cup Final. Hull, just 22 years-old, was a star with the emerging Chicago Blackhawks that season, and it appeared that the Blackhawks were starting their own dynasty with all their good, talented young players. With Stan Mikita, Al Arbour, Glenn Hall, and Bill Hay on the ice, the 1960-61 Blackhawks were a great mix of solid young players and savvy veterans. Looking forward 49 years, the current version of the Chicago Blackhawks are built in a similar fashion, and they too will celebrate into the wee hours of the morning tonight having won the franchise's fourth Stanley Cup in their history.

First off, congratulations to the Philadelphia Flyers. They played some incredible hockey in this year's postseason, and created some vivid memories and remarkable history. They become only the third team in NHL history to rally from being down 3-0 in a series to win that series, eliminating the Boston Bruins in dramatic fashion. Players like Richards, Carter, Hartnell, Briere, Giroux, Pronger, Timonen, and Carle showed an amazing amount of resolve in qualifying for the playoffs on the last day of the regular season in a shootout before rattling off 14 wins in the postseason. Congratulations, Philly, and you have a lot to build on for next season.

However, to the victors go the spoils.

The Chicago Blackhawks ended a 49-year drought tonight with their 4-3 overtime win in Game Six. Patrick Kane scored the game-winning goal from a very sharp angle that brought back memories of "The Goal" in the Vancouver Olympics. Kane's low shot found its way between Michael Leighton's legs, and came to rest in the back of the net on the far side. At first, television cameras didn't pick up the goal, but Kane's celebration suggested that he had scored the overtime marker.

After the video review, the celebration began. The Chicago Blackhawks are your 2009-2010 Stanley Cup Champions!

The one man who isn't there to celebrate the championship is the man who started the rebuild of the Blackhawks. Dale Tallon, the current GM of the Florida Panthers, was reassigned to a new position after he messed up mailing out contracts to restricted free agents, but he remained as part of the Chicago Blackhawks family. The Panthers came calling, though, and Tallon wanted another chance at building a champion, so he filled the vacant General Manager's office in Miami. If I'm Rocky Wirtz, I'd do the honourable thing and get Tallon fitted for a Stanley Cup ring. His fingerprints are all over this team.

Jonathan Toews was named as the Conn Smythe Trophy winner after leading the playoffs in scoring this season. Toews totaled up seven goals and 22 assists, and was a force through the earlier rounds. "Captain Serious" was a force in the face-off circle throughout the playoffs, and is one of three members of the Blackhawks to capture both the Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold medal this season.

How about the game-winning goal scorer? Remember when Patrick Kane was all the news for his poor decision in Buffalo? He's the most important man in Chicago today as his goal ended 49 years of heartbreak in the Windy City. Kane was a force once head coach Joel Quenneville moved him off Toews' line. The young man from Buffalo watched Sidney Crosby score a goal from nearly the same spot on the ice in Vancouver to win a gold medal, and tonight was his moment from virtually the same spot on the ice.

How about that youthful Blackhawks' blueline? Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook seemingly played every moment, and were occasionally spelled off by Brian Campbell, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Brent Sopel. The five men excelled at shutting down the opposition's top players while providing solid offensive support. While it might be hard to keep this unit intact for the long-term, these five men put on an incredible display of talent and skill in leading the Blackhawks in their Stanley Cup run.

While a lot has been said about Antti Niemi's lack of star power in the Chicago nets, sometimes it just takes a lunchpail effort to lead your team to victory. While goaltenders like Martin Brodeur, Evgeni Nabokov, Roberto Luongo, and Ryan Miller may have been "sexier" from a marketing standpoint, there's no denying that effort and talent helped Niemi carry his team further than the four men above. While the young man was a no-name player at the start of the NHL season, he quickly grew into a household name with his never-say-die attitude between the pipes. And now he has the NHL's ultimate prize to show for his efforts.

And that Marian Hossa guy? After two consecutive years of being on the wrong side of the handshakes, Hossa finally gets to sip from the Silver Chalice tonight. While some may argue that this Stanley Cup is a lesser achievement than the rest of the rest of the Blackhawks, I'd argue that Hossa had a 3.3% chance (1 in 30) of appearing in the Stanley Cup Final like everyone else at the beginning of the season. Is he a hired mercenary after swapping teams for the third time in three years? Maybe, but I say it takes an equal amount of luck as it does skill to choose the correct team at the beginning of the season that will appear in the Stanley Cup Final. So while Hossa is now one-fer-three in winning the Stanley Cup, I'm pretty sure his victory is just as nice for him had Hossa won it in Pittsburgh or Detroit before he won the Stanley Cup with Chicago.

And how sweet is the victory for sports fans in Chicago? For as much as we saw Vince Vaughn in the stands at the United Center, several other celebrities showed their support for the Blackhawks as well. Jeremy Piven, a long-time 'Hawks fan, was at the games with Vaughn and Peter Billingsley, Kevin James made several appearances in the playoffs, and John Cusack, a native of Evanston, Illinois, also was seen cheering on the Blackhawks. And there were several sightings at Blackhawks games of retired greatness, both on and off the ice. For the people of Chicago, though, it was their first hockey championship in nearly three generations. While the Blackhawks went on a nice run in 1992, it was ended quickly by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final with a sweep. So to all Chicago residents and fans, this one is for you, and enjoy breaking the 49-year "curse" of no Stanley Cups. After all, there are other teams who continue to appear to be much worse off in terms of their "curse".

Congratulations go out to all the members of the Chicago Blackhawks, your 2009-10 Stanley Cup Champions! From head coach Joel Quenneville to Stan Bowman; from Rocky Wirtz to Denis Savard; from John Madden to the fans in the Madhouse on Madison, this Stanley Cup victory belongs to everyone in Chicago. Let the celebration begin!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Chicago Blackhawks said...

Congrats to the chicago blackhawks on their stanley cup victory!I went to game 4 and boys were great !Thanks for the great tickets ! they made my day. Ticketsinventory and Blackhawks are #1