For any fan of Hawk or the Whale, there are 4 dates marked carefully with an X on the calendar so hard that the paper is warn through. Tonight is one of those nights. Make no mistake, these two teams hate each other.
Don’t get me wrong, other rivalries come very close. The recent upheaval between the Sabres and Bruins over an atrocious Lucic hit on Ryan Miller, the Battle of Ontario & Alberta in their heyday, Pittsburgh Washington, Rangers Devils and last but not least the Boston vs. Montreal battle which is the NHL’s longest brewing rivalry. These battles between foes are all tantalizing and definitely in the top 10. But right now I have to stick to Chicago, Vancouver.
As previously documented by my fellow hockey writer Cheryl Adams in this stellar piece, these teams outright hate one another. The web is overloaded with stories breaking down these opponents and their scorn towards the other. Youtube.com is full of fights, line brawls, hits and blood when you type in Blackhawks Canucks Rivalry as your search words. This line brawl from March 29th, 2009 was surely a catalyst and definitely kicked the rivalry into overdrive.
Why the hatred? Well, to start these teams have played 19 playoff and 12 regular season for 31 total games in three seasons before this year. What else could it be? Was it perhaps the Hawks knocking the Canucks out in 6 games in 2009 after being down 2 to 1? Was it the brutal, but fair hit of Willie Mitchell on Jonathan Toews in October 2009? The Burrows bite? Or Is it just that the Canucks and their fans want so dearly what the Hawks brought home for theirs in 2009-10?
The names on the back of the jerseys may have changed. Burrish, Byfuglien, Ladd, Versteeg, Eager to name a few have all moved on from Chicago. O’Brien, Mitchell, Glass, Torres and Sadly Rick Rypien (RIP) are no longer Canucks. All of these players were key cogs in this feud and all are gone. But the bad blood remains. The hatred persists. Clearly it goes deeper than just one guy or one fight. It’s the colors, it’s the logos, it’s the fans, it’s the green men and it’s the United center playing Chelsea Dagger by the Fratellis after each goal. It’s the whole package and it’s on again tonight.
History tells us that tonight the visiting Blackhawks will be victorious. In the past 3 seasons these clubs have split the season series 2-2 every year. The Hawks hold the edge in the playoffs by an 11-8 advantage making the 3 year total 17-15 if you count their most recent match from two weeks ago.
That meeting, their first of the year was a blowout by Vancouver. This was a 6-2 romp in which the Canucks, who made it to within a game of sipping from the mug, destroyed the Hawks and scored 5 of their 6 goals on the power play. The tough stuff was also on the docket with Dan Carcillo taking on Aaron Volpatti and with no time left on the clock in the second Jamal Mayers took on Kevin Bieksa in a great trade off for the Hawks.
But that was then and this is now. The Hawks have won their last 3 and are 6-3-1 in their last 10 and hold first place in the league. The Canucks meanwhile are middle of the pack and are on the outside looking in for a playoff spot. A win tonight could push them up into the top 8 in the Western Conference.
Like all fans of the frozen game, I hope the stars like Toews, The Sedins, Kane, Kesler, Sharp, Luongo, Crawford, Hodgson, Keith, Burrows and Hossa will all come out and shine tonight. But my bet is that the red of the rivalry will prevail and I for one will be on the edge of my seat to see what happens next.