Chicago Blackhawks 2017-18 Primer

A question was recently posed among our esteemed colleagues here at The Hockey Writers. What is it about your favorite team that makes them special? In other words, why are you a fan, and what are some of the things that enhance your fandom? What might someone just getting started as a fan need to know to get up to speed? Today, we’re going to discuss this subject in regard to one of the “Original Six” teams in the NHL, the Chicago Blackhawks.

What’s in the Name?

First and foremost, it’s good to have a general knowledge of the history of the team name, especially in the case of the Blackhawks. On the surface, and from their logo, one might be concerned about being offensive to the Native American culture. Considering the recent controversy associated with the NFL Washington Redskins, this is well warranted.

As it turns out, this is not the case at all. The Blackhawks are actually named after a World War I military division. They called themselves the Black Hawks in honor of a renowned Sauk Indian chief. Rather than using a name that is derogatory to the culture, the Blackhawks are showing respect to the military unit, as well as an important historical Indian figure.

The Faces of the Franchise

One can’t have a conversation about this Chicago team without discussing Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Toews was chosen third overall in the 2006 NHL Draft. Kane was selected first overall in the 2007 NHL Draft. Both made their debuts for the Hawks in the 2007-08 season, where Kane won the Calder Memorial Trophy for rookie of the year, and Toews finished right behind him as runner-up.

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are both highly associated with the recent success of the Blackhawks. (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

The following year, Toews was named team captain, an honor that he holds to this day. He is often called “Captain Serious,” because of his passion and intensity for the game. In 2010, Toews was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for being the most valuable player during the Stanley Cup playoffs. In 2013, he earned the Selke Trophy for the forward who demonstrates the most defensive prowess in his game. Among other honors, Toews is also a two-time Olympic gold medalist (2010 and 2014) for Team Canada.

Kane is no stranger to hardware either. Besides the Calder Trophy in his rookie season, he also brought home the Conn Smythe in 2013 for his efforts in the Hawks’ playoff run. In the 2015-16 season, Kane became the first American born player to win the Art Ross Trophy, which is awarded to the player with the most points in the regular season.  He also secured the Hart Trophy for being most valuable to his team, and the Ted Lindsay Award, which is given to the league’s most outstanding player, as judged by his peers.

3 Stanley Cups in 6 Years

The above captions are impressive enough regarding Toews and Kane without even mentioning the fact that they’ve helped their team win the most coveted trophy in hockey, the Stanley Cup. Not only have they won it once, but they’ve lifted it three times in a span of six years. They earned championship honors in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

(Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

For those of you that aren’t aware, winning a Stanley Cup is an extremely difficult thing to do. Your team must win four best-of-seven-game series in the playoffs to claim this title. No other club in the salary cap era (since the 2005-06 season) has been able to win three titles in such a short amount of time.  The Los Angeles Kings won two Cups in three years, and the Pittsburgh Penguins most recently brought home two consecutive Cups. But, unlike the Hawks, they haven’t won before that since way back in 2009.

Talking About the Core

Blackhawks’ general manager Stan Bowman has worked very hard to put together a roster that is strong enough to win three Cups in six years. To do that, he has invested in a number of “core” players. Toews, Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Patrick Sharp are seven core players that have been with the team for all three Cups. These star players are expected to lead the way because of their tenacity and experience.

Duncan Keith
Duncan Keith is a core member of the Blackhawks that has won the Norris Trophy for best defenseman in both 2010 and 2014.  (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr.)

Unfortunately, Hossa and Hjalmarsson can no longer be considered part of the current core group. Hossa is sidelined for the season (and perhaps the remainder of his career) with a progressive skin disorder. Hjalmarsson was traded in the offseason to the Arizona Coyotes due to salary cap issues.

Sharp has actually spent the last two seasons as a member of the Dallas Stars. He was also traded for salary cap reasons after the Hawks won their most recent Cup in 2015. But he re-signed with the team for the upcoming season, and many are hoping he can help Chicago return to some of its former glory after two first-round playoff exits. He’s joined by another former player that has returned to the team, Brandon Saad. With two Cups under his belt with the Hawks, Saad should also be considered part of the core. The same could be said for goaltender Corey Crawford, who has won two Cups with the team as well.

How to Watch a Game

Now that we’ve thrown some history and some big names at you, let’s get into the dirty details of watching games. In my humble opinion, taking in a Blackhawks’ game is one of the most entertaining things you can do on any given night.

First off, you have a mix of veteran and young players that are on the ice to win. They refer to the motto, “One Goal.” Of course, the literal meaning of this is to score goals. But it also references the long-term objective of the season, and that’s to win a Stanley Cup.

The Hawks refer to the motto “One Goal”. (Rick Rischall The Hockey Writers)

When watching the game on TV, fans are treated to one of the best announcers in the business, Pat Foley. Foley has been calling Hawks’ games since 1980, and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2014 for his “outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster”.

Foley is well-known for his enthusiasm, and he has some go-to sayings he uses almost every game. Keep an ear out for Foley to exclaim, “It’s 3:33 left to go in the third!” Or “There’s some happy humans.” He’s also notorious for saying, “We hope you enjoyed the broadcast in spite of the outcome,” after a loss.

But the best part of watching a Blackhawks’ game is when they score a goal. The Hawks’ goal song is from the Fratellis’ hit single “Chelsea Dagger.” It’s the kind of tune that can really get you going.

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The United Center Experience

While watching Blackhawks’ games is really fun, there’s nothing quite like attending the United Center in person. I would highly recommend it. It’s an electric environment, with the fans excited and decked out in bright red jerseys (everyone looks great in red). The United Center provides great food and drink, excellent video montages before and during the game; and of course they boast a winning team.

But be sure to get there early enough to catch the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner. Jim Cornelison’s rendition is one that will not easily be forgotten. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the fans get involved as well. Trust me, you just have to experience this to understand it.

Best Blackhawks’ Memories

There have been a lot of great memories and history involved with the Blackhawks over the years. Here’s a piece that goes into much more detail about the extensive history of the Hawks. But nothing quite compares to the memories involved with winning recent Stanley Cups. One of the most famous moments in all of hockey might be the goal that nobody saw in 2010 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

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And how about 17 seconds in 2013?

Kane scored the last goal in the 2015 Final, but it was Keith’s initial goal that proved to be the game-winner. It almost seems anti-climactic compared the other two, but true fans will always remember.

Trying to Forget the Bad

Even with all this winning, things haven’t always been sunshine and roses for the Hawks. After their 2010 title, they were eliminated in the first round the following two seasons. 2013 brought another championship, but 2014 wasn’t so kind. The Hawks beat the St. Louis Blues, and then the Minnesota Wild to make it to the Conference Finals. They were then defeated by the Los Angeles Kings in Game 7. The Kings went on to win the Cup that year.

Team Europe World Cup Roster
The Los Angeles Kings got in the way of the Blackhawks repeating as Stanley Cup champions in 2014. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

As the Hawks won the Cup in 2015, 2016 was another year in which they had high hopes for a repeat. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. A first round exit to the rival St. Louis Blues was the reality instead.

The last disappointment in this Blackhawks’ era was the 2016-17 playoffs. They were defeated in the first round in four games by the Nashville Predators. That’s right, the Hawks got swept. They didn’t even win one game.

Needless to say, management has made some big changes in the offseason. Only time will tell if these changes pay off. But one thing is for certain; this upcoming 2017-18 season should be very interesting for the Blackhawks.

So my friends, I have a question to pose to you. Are you a die-hard Blackhawks’ fan, and is there someone you’d love to start watching hockey with? Then ask them to read this primer, and invite them to watch opening night with you on October 5. After all, it’s pretty hard to watch a Blackhawks’ game and not get sucked in – especially with this pertinent information to get you started. Let’s all share the love!

Is it October yet?