After 49 years, the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup 2 time in 4 seasons. I’m not going to pretend I know what this means to the long-suffering Blackhawks fans of the dashed-dreams, hopeless, pre-Toews era. I am one of the much-grumbled about new Blackhawks fans – so new that I wasn’t even paying attention when they won the Cup in 2010. I started watching the NHL when the Boston Bruins defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning and began their battle with the Vancouver Canucks to become the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions.
Hooked on hockey like never before, I wanted my own team to cheer for, and being from Illinois, the Blackhawks drew my attention first. Every game televised locally, plus Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, etc. – there’s no going back from that. Judge if you wish.
It was somewhere in September that I realized the Blackhawks had won the Stanley Cup in 2010 after a 49 year lull. People talked like it was a fluke, a one-time thing that just happened to work out with great management, a coach that benefited from a deep roster that would probably never happen again in the salary cap era, owners that lifted the franchise as high as it could probably go, young stars that needed to carry the team on their shoulders lest they fall short for another 4 decades or so.
And I missed it. But the Blackhawks were flying high in 2011-2012, leading the NHL all the way up until the All-Star break. And then… the 9-game losing streak. Remember that? But it was actually the Terrible Streak that solidified my admiration for the captain and commitment to the Blackhawks.
After a nice rebound, the Blackhawks earned the right to play the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round of the playoffs. The games were close with “bad bounces” and “soft goals” seeming to make all the difference in 5 overtime contests. But Game 6 was rough, losing 4-0 at home to a team that I had grown to dislike immensely. I thought the Los Angeles Kings deserved to win the Cup just for taking out the Coyotes and putting a stop to that obnoxious howling. By then the damage was done and I was a Blackhawks fan in for the long haul, 49 years if needed – and it definitely felt that way after losing to Phoenix.
This past year was completely different, with the Blackhawks breaking records and rendering most of the stats’ predictions meaningless. There were so many similarities to the 2010 team (or so I read), but at times we had flashbacks to last year’s team where they just couldn’t quite pull it together and be the stellar team we were already used to seeing in the shortened season. The question was if they would make it matter by accomplishing even more incredible feats in the post season and raise Lord Stanley’s Cup once again even though there were still technically 46 more years to go.
Then look at what happened: the Blackhawks unbelievable season, and the way that they won the cup – 2 goals in 17 seconds! They gave their fans whiplash and stunned the rest of the hockey world, not because nobody thought they could do it, but because of the strength that it takes to follow through and live up to high expectations.
It’s nice see the look on the faces of the white-haired men in the crowd wearing brand new jerseys, or the ‘80’s and ‘90’s crowd feeling justified for wearing their faded jerseys bought back in the days of “almosts”. They all feel the satisfaction of their long-beloved team proving that the Championship win three years ago was no fluke, but a way of life in the modern era. Understanding what this 2013 win means to those who stood by the Blackhawks for so long makes it even more special to celebrate as a new fan.
How long have you been a fan of the Blackhawks?