It’s no secret that the Chicago Blackhawks aren’t having their best season. From the firing of Joel Quenneville to a few lengthy losing streaks, things aren’t what they used to be. Despite improving recently, Blackhawks fans seem to be in need of a morale boost. Even when things are at their worst, there are many things Blackhawks fans need to keep in perspective.
Here are five of them.
1. Blackhawks’ Renaissance
A little over a decade ago, the Blackhawks were considered one of the worst organizations in professional sports. They managed to completely turn it around within a few seasons. With the shift in ownership from Bill Wirtz to Rocky Wirtz at the start of the 2007-08 season as well as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane making their NHL debuts, the “Blackhawks Renaissance” began and was culminated when they took home their first championship in 49 years at the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.
Kane scored the game-winning goal during overtime in Game 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers. All fans rejoiced, including former Blackhawk Jeremy Roenick, who famously teared up from emotion.
NBC Sports Chicago’s pre and post-game show host Pat Boyle recalls the excitement of the night, “I was in studio anchoring our extended post-game coverage. When the last champagne bottle was emptied, and we had exhausted every last interview from Philadelphia, we wrapped up the show. As I walked off the set, the news director asked if I would like to cover the Blackhawks’ arrival at O’Hare.”
“Fast-forward to around 4:30 am, and we are at the airport, cameras pointed at the Blackhawks’ charter. The Chicago Fire Department had two engines flanking the runway, shooting water on each side of the plane and the charter made its way through the fountain. The pilot opened his window and started waving a Blackhawks flag. The cabin door opened up, and the Stanley Cup was raised at the top of the steps. I will never forget that arrival and interviewing this group of champions, several beverages & cigars into their celebration.”
Little did the Blackhawks know, this was just the beginning of their string of championships.
2. Three Cups in Six Seasons
With 31 teams in the NHL in the late 2010s, it’s nearly impossible to achieve dynasty status. The Blackhawks have what is closest to a modern-day dynasty with three Stanley Cups over six seasons in 2010, 2013 and 2015. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said so himself after the 2015 victory. It can be argued that the Pittsburgh Penguins are in the same category, but the gap of seven seasons between the first and second championship in the Sidney Crosby era hardly compares with the Blackhawks.
It can be argued that the dynasty is dead, but it can just as easily be argued that it is “far from over.” With strong defensive prospects like Adam Boqvist, as well as their improvement over their past few games, the Blackhawks aren’t going down without a fight.
Team president and CEO John McDonough said after the 2015 championship, “Our goal was to get one and try to get the franchise on the right track…and (bring) everything together and hire the right people. Apparently, we have. What a reward for the city of Chicago. But we’re not done. We’re not done.” (from ‘June 15, 2015: Blackhawks Seize Their Third Stanley Cup in Six Seasons’ – Chicago Tribune – 6/15/15).
Even if the dynasty is over, Blackhawks fans, as well as the entire organization, have much to be proud of. The odds of another team achieving what the Hawks have these past few years are slim-to-none, and they still have plenty of time to add one more championship to their dynasty.
3. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane
The Blackhawks’ luck began to turn at the 2006 NHL Draft when they drafted Toews with the third overall pick. They continued their lucky streak when they got the first overall pick at the 2007 NHL Draft and chose Kane. Since drafting the two superstars, they have added three Cups to their trophy case, and both have individual achievements that speak for themselves.
Toews has a Conn Smythe Trophy, Frank J. Selke Trophy and Mark Messier Leadership award under his belt. He became the youngest captain in franchise history at 20 years old and is one of the strongest leaders in the NHL. He has earned respect among some of his greatest rivals, like Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn.
Shortly after the 2015 championship, Benn told the Chicago Sun-Times, “It’s just the way he goes about his game. The compete [level] is outstanding. He plays a 200-foot game. He’s one of the best defensive forwards in the league. He pretty much does everything so well, that’s what makes him so special. It’s hard to play against a guy like that. It starts in the faceoff dot, and he plays hard for 60 minutes every game and his teammates follow him.” (from ‘Jonathan Toews’ Value Goes Far Beyond the Scoresheet’ – Chicago Sun-Times – 6/23/15).
At 30, Toews has accomplished more than what most NHL players dream of. He’s far from done, as he has another goal to accomplish, as he told NHL.com, “More Stanley Cups,” Toews said, matter-of-factly. “Winning is addictive.”
Along with his three Stanley Cups, Kane has a Calder Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy and was the first American-born player to take home the Hart Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award and Art Ross Trophy in the 2015-16 season. It was his strongest season to date, as he tallied 46 goals and 60 assists in 82 games. The most impressive part of his season was his 26-game point streak. It’s the longest streak among active NHL players, Blackhawks players and American-born players.
Consistency is what I’m probably most proud of. I’ve had some slumps, but for the most part, I’ve been able to figure things out. It’s been quite a ride. I’ve played my whole career, and I hope to play the rest of my career in Chicago. As a rookie, coming from my home in Buffalo, I was a little overwhelmed. The size of the city, the traffic. But it’s the best possible place to play hockey. The fans are unbelievable, the organization is first class, and even with the players we’ve had to let go of because of the salary cap, we’ve had a nice run. Three Stanley Cups, and it’s not over yet. – Kane on his career in Chicago as told to NHL.com,
Despite the Blackhawks not having the strongest season, Toews and Kane are thriving. Toews is having one of his strongest seasons since his rookie campaign with 16 goals and 18 assists in 40 games, and Kane has tallied 20 goals and 27 assists in 39 games. Alongside teammate Duncan Keith, Toews and Kane were named three of the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players in 2017. Both were only 28 years old when they received the prestigious honor.
Neither Toews nor Kane show signs of stopping anytime soon. Even if they retire tomorrow, each will go down as one of the greatest Blackhawks of all-time. Even when times are tough, fans need to remember how lucky they are to have these two on the roster.
4. 17 Seconds
Out of the three recent championships for the Blackhawks, the 2013 Stanley Cup was the most memorable. With less than two minutes left in Game 6 against the Boston Bruins, Corey Crawford was pulled from the net to help the Blackhawks overcome a 2-1 deficit. It looked like the game was going to overtime after Bryan Bickell tied the game, but everything changed 17 seconds later. Dave Bolland scored the game-winning goal with less than a minute left on the clock. These 17 seconds forever changed the franchise’s history.
For the third period of Game 6 in Boston, we moved to ice level where the broadcast row was set up in the bowels of TD Garden. There were only a couple of TV monitors we could watch the game on. So you had 40-50 media members staring up at a small flat-screen when Milan Lucic put the Bruins up 2-1 with seven minutes to go in regulation. A couple minutes later, the case carrying the Stanley Cup was wheeled by us. Just seconds after ’17 Seconds,’ the beat-up case carrying the Cup was wheeled by us again and was getting polished up for its presentation to the Blackhawks. The post-game show started in the bowels of the Garden, and then my co-host Steve Konroyd and I were moved inside the bowl, just above ice level. While we chronicled the Blackhawks historic, wire-to-wire run, my lasting memory was seeing Jonathan Toews at center ice with a handful of friends and family. The captain had a cigar in one hand and a beverage in the other. ‘Captain Serious’ had left the building, and Toews was moonwalking on the ice. Our cameras caught this unlikely celebration, and it put a bow on another unforgettable night in Chicago sports history. – Boyle’s memories of the night.
5. The Legacy of Stan Mikita
When Stan Mikita died in Aug. 2018, the Blackhawks lost one of their greatest legends. Although he retired decades ago, everything about the legacy he left behind is something all Hawks fans should be proud of. The 1961 Stanley Cup champion is the only player in the NHL history to win the Hart, Art Ross and Lady Byng Trophies two years in a row.
Along with being one of the greatest centers in franchise history and the NHL as a whole, Mikita left behind a legacy of kindness. Fame didn’t matter to Mikita as much as family and treating others with kindness.
Shortly after his death, his friend Ken Geiger told the Chicago Tribune, “He was down-to-earth, humble, you could see that right away,” said Geiger. “Stan was really down-to-earth. There are a few professional athletes who stay regular guys when they become stars. That’s very, very rare today. Stan always remembered where he came from.” (from ‘The Heart of Stan Mikita’ – Chicago Tribune – 8/10/18)
He continued, “Sports fans understood that about him,” Geiger said. “He was gracious. Here, the people of Berwyn kind of took him for granted. He married a lovely Berwyn girl who went to our high school. They had a wonderful family. Stan would never turn anyone away for anything.” (from ‘The Heart of Stan Mikita’ – Chicago Tribune – 8/10/18).
Despite all of the troubles the Blackhawks have faced so far this season, nothing can change the legacy that Mikita left behind.
The Blackhawks are no longer the powerhouse of a team they were a few years ago, but there are still plenty of reasons for fans to be excited, proud and optimistic about the future. They may not bring home another Stanley Cup in June, but with a legacy of winning and transforming a franchise over the past decade, there are more important things to remember in the long run.
All stats obtained from NHL.com