Can the Blackhawks Finally Reach the Summit?

Your NHL Frozen Four, also known as the final four teams standing in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, will be the Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks.

How Montreal and Philadelphia arrived in the Eastern Conference Finals is nothing short of remarkable. 

Montreal has been a great story during the playoffs, having taken out both Washington and Pittsburgh as the #8 seed.  And for hockey purists, simply seeing the famous bleu, blanc et rouge with a strong goalie hitting his stride, another banner seems, at the very worst, quite plausible.

The Canadiens would have been the story had it not been for the #7-seeded Flyers.  All they did was become only the fourth team in sports history to win a best-of-seven series after being down 3-0 to Boston.  How bad did it get for the Bruins?  Game 7 was in Boston and they led the game 3-0 in the first period.  That should have been it.  Bye-bye Flyers.  Instead, when you consider recent Boston sports dominance with the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics, they went very un-Boston on us.

This was, arguably, the greatest collapse in the history of sports.  What the Bruins did – rather, didn’t do – makes Bill Buckner’s blown play vs. the Mets in the World Series seem trivial.

In the west, you have the two top seeds.  One point separated San Jose and Chicago and it may turn out that single point, which gave the Sharks home ice advantage, will help decide the series. 

And here is where my objectivity hat comes off in favor of my born-in-Chicago, lifelong Hawks fan hat. 

Chicago sports fans – this includes fans of the baseball team I’m vaguely familiar with on the North Side – are a hearty, loyal bunch.  We’ve been trained to understand the simple concept that one way or another, we won’t see the kind of championship success reserved for cities like New York and Boston.  That’s not negative and I say it without a shred of bitterness.  I’ve watch sports for five decades; it is what it is.  Still, we’ve had our moments in Chicago:

  • There was the great Bears Super Bowl championship in 1985.  But in true Chicago fashion, a team many thought was set up to be a dynasty… nope, never happened.  It was one and done.  The reasons are many.  And none of them really matter.  Oh sure, the Bears have won eight NFL Championships in addition to the Super Bowl win but no one really gives much weight to anything pre-Super Bowl era.
  • The White Sox won the World Series in 2005, something I didn’t think I’d see in my lifetime.  I cannot begin to list the heartbreaks Sox fans have endured over the years.  But none of them matter anymore.  2005 makes up for all of them.  My Suffering Sox Fan Mortgage is paid in full.
  • The Cubs have not won a World Series since 1797.  I’m sure it’ll happen again.  Someday.
  • The Bulls in the Michael Jordan 90’s were remarkable.  Had Jordan not retired for several years – and those reasons are both numerous and murky – I don’t think there’s any question the Bulls would have won eight straight NBA Championships.  As it was, six in eight years cemented the franchise into NBA history.  The Bulls of today are one LeBron James away from being on the doorstep of champion contender.  Now, he simply needs to be told why going to Chicago makes the most sense.
  • The Blackhawks have not won the Stanley Cup since 1961.  My most vivid image of this historic, Original Six franchise, beyond the fact they have the greatest jersey in all of sports, is the 1971 Stanley Cup Finals.  Game 7 was in the Madhouse on Madison, Chicago Stadium.  Up 2-0 late in the second period, it was beginning to look like this was it.  Finally, after numerous playoff disappointments in the years following the 1961 title, the Hawks would hold the Cup.  Instead, three straight Montreal goals sent 20,000 fans inside Chicago Stadium, and millions more in the Chicagoland area into speechless disbelief.  When I think about it, as I am at this moment, I still get irritated.

After what has seemed like an eternity of  abysmal hockey including a myriad of organizational missteps (finally, the ludicrous and laughable policy of not televising home games is over), the Blackhawks now have one of the premier franchises in the NHL.  With great young stars like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, an aggressive and talented front office, and a hungry, deafening fan base now turning the United Center into the new Madhouse, the Blackhawks journey to hockey’s promised land is nearly complete. 

What I’d like to see – and you can bet the NHL is praying for it – would be a Montreal-Chicago Stanley Cup Final.  It would have everything going for it:  Two of the Original Six, Canada and the United States, prominent television markets, great fan bases, gorgeous jerseys (merchandise sales for the teams and NHL would surely skyrocket)…

Now, San Jose and Philadelphia simply need to cooperate by stepping aside. 

photo credit: RyanK

Filed Under: Christopher GabrielNHL

About the Author: Christopher serves up sports on 940 ESPN in Fresno with a good deal of pop culture, films, music and the quirky side of life mixed in. Distinguished guests and contributors from across the nation and around the world regularly join the program. He tackles the most complex stories to ones slightly off the radar delivering depth and humor with a thoughtful perspective. When he was in Fargo, the city not the movie, the program was nominated for Best Radio Show in the region in 2012, 2013 and 2014 by readers of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. As a writer, Christopher's work has been been published by the Chicago Sun-Times, Sun-Times Network publications, Reuters, USA Volleyball and Team USA, the Official Website of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

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  1. Andy Heller says:

    Even though I dont follow hockey, I still read your article. 🙂 Very nice and proves what I’ve said for a long time that you’re a good sports analyst.


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