Hard Hawk Hockey, a phrase that you might remember Pat Foley saying during his broadcasts of games back in the late 80’s and early to mid 90’s. Well at least I remember it. It was at a time when the Chicago Blackhawks team was a forechecking and hitting machine. Pressuring the oppostion, and hitting everything in site, those teams were tough to play against. If you beat the Hawks back then, you earned.
If my memory is right, this all started back when Mike Keenan became the head coach in the 88-89 season. I have a fondness for Mike that started in his days in Philadelphia when he coached the Flyers. To this day there’s something about him that intrigues me. His crazyness, his passion, his will to win. All of it. Sure some of you most likely can’t stand him, and with the dizzying roster moves he made once he became general manager, I can appreciate that. I’ll never forget when he traded Rick Vaive to Buffalo for Adam Creighton and Christian Ruutu. Pissed me off to no end. But I also will never forget when he traded Denis Savard for my fellow countrymen, Chris Chelios. That right there set the tone for the Hawks going forward, and how they would play for quite some time. Many nights looked like this.
From Chelios, to Roenick, to Joceyln Lemiuex, and even Eddie Belfour in goal, those Hawks teams played a physical brand of hockey that rocked it every night. Boards rattling, sticks flying, and players dropping like flies. The game plan was to wear down the opposition. The fourth line truly was an energy line. But every line did the same thing….finished their checks. For me, a great brand of hockey. The physicality of those teams is where the phrase “Hard Hawk Hockey” came from. While that style was tough to play night in and night out, you have to admit it was fun to watch, and helped turn the Hawks into a perrenial Stanley Cup contender. And made the old Chicago Stadium the loudest arena to play a game in.
Last season as the Hawks defended their Stanley Cup, there was an element that was missing. Physical toughness. I’m not saying that the Hawks are soft by any means. What I am saying is that we saw many nights either no response, or a response coming from Brent Seabrook, or Captain Johnny Toews. We needed more from guys like Bryan Bickell and Troy Brouwer, but maybe it’s just not their game. After being forced to trade Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien, among others, the Hawks lost some of the swagger that the Cup championship team had. The John Scott experiment didn’t really work. While as nice as a guy as he is, he’s a liability on the ice most of the time. Punching the daylights out of someone is fine when it’s needed, but how many of you squirmed in your seat when he had the puck?
Fast forward to this offseason and it appears that general manager Stan Bowman has addressed this. Andrew Brunette, Dan Carcillo, Jamal Mayers, Steve Montador and Sean O’Donnell all bring something to the table that was missing. Snarl! Brunette works hard, and digs in the corners, and is adept at getting to the dirty areas. Carcillo, if he can hold his temper, will not only be the resident tough guy, but is skilled enough to play minutes without embarrassing you. Mayers has always had a reputation of being a standup guy. Won’t get you a lot of points, but knows his role and plays it better than most. Can drop the gloves when necessary as well. Montador has grown into his role as a stay at home defenceman who also can play it tough. Something that’s been missing from the Hawks defence for a few years. While O’Donnell’s role hasnt been defined as of yet, his size and experience will make a difference with any ice time that he gets, as well as the leadership he provides in the dressing room.
It’s good to see that this ingredient has been taken care of. Kane, Toews, Hossa and Sharp needed protection, and more room on the ice. The opposing teams know will look over their shoulder more, and will need to know who’s on the ice. The Hawks will be tough to play against once again. The combination of skill, hard work, and physicality will make them a serious contender for the Cup again.
Yes, Hard Hawk Hockey is back.
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