There was a time not long ago the Chicago Blackhawks toiled in NHL obscurity.
ESPN rated the Original Six franchise the worst in sports. “Dollar Bill” Wirtz alienated fans by blacking out home games and turned a blind eye to the half-empty United Center losing season after losing season.
Stars from the glory years of the ‘90s like Jeremy Roenick, Ed Belfour and Chris Chelios were sent packing, and most fans who basked in 28 straight playoff appearances from 1969 to 1997 went with them. And although the ‘Hawks still face criticism despite last season’s trip to the Western Conference Finals, it’s a different type of criticism – the voices of high expectations.
People began questioning the 12-year, $68 million deal given to former Detroit Red Wing Marian Hossa well before the perennial 40-goal scorer underwent shoulder surgery, forcing Hossa to miss the first two months of the season. Then came potential of losing key restricted free agents after offers weren’t delivered in time, which was followed by the abrupt firing of GM Dale Tallon and the installing of Stan Bowmen in Tallon’s old position.
President John McDonough came under fire at last weekend’s Blackhawks Convention from fans who, despite the success of Joel Quenneville, are still curious about the early season firing of former coach Denis Savard.
Recent shakeups within the organization have raised eyebrows, but hopefully the city of Chicago realizes why – the criticism officially means the Blackhawks are back from the dead.
McDonough has unofficially lived by the motto, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” dating back to his days running the Chicago Cubs. While some moves may have been questionable, at least the fans are back questioning. On-ice success is only a part of what Chicago wanted – it wanted to feel the passion of Blackhawks hockey again from within the organization.
Now, they have it. The criticism is for good reason, but now it’s time to believe.