The 2012-2013(er 2013) season will be one that will live on forever in Chicago Blackhawks lore. We all know that it could not have possibly ended in a more epic, dramatic, or unforgettable fashion. It wasn’t all champagne bubbles and confetti though. No NHL season is, but it was a miracle that one puck was dropped throughout the entire league, which makes the Blackhawks 2013 season that much more miraculous.
The 2011-2012 season ended with several uneasy questions for the Blackhawks. After a second straight disappointing first round exit in the playoffs, this time by the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes, the Hawks went into the offseason with an abundance of uncertainty. Could Corey Crawford be the Hawks starting goaltender? Or was his 2010-2011 campaign just a stroke of beginners luck? Would Patrick Kane mature to be a major contributor again? Or was he not destined to be a piece of the Hawks core for years to come? These were just some of the legitimately lethal questions and controversies that were ailing the Blackhawks, while the Los Angeles Kings were celebrating their first Stanley Cup Championship, in franchise history.
Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman did very little to quell these plaguing questions, as he made no blockbuster moves in the offseason. Instead, he chose to stick with his in-house core of players, and have faith that these players will make the necessary steps, and developments to help them return to the glory of Stanley Cup Champions, that they reached in 2010. Would this be the right course of action for Bowman to take the Hawks in? Sadly, that question wouldn’t be answered for quite some time.
On September 15th, 2012 the NHL lockout began. The league and the NHL Players Association had failed to reach a Collective Bargaining Agreement, and preseason camps, as well as preseason games were canceled. No one knew how long the lockout would last, but at the same time no one believed that the NHL would let yet another canceled season tarnish its reputation, again as it did in 2004-2005. Having said that, the negotiation talks were either non-existent, or non-productive, all the way through early December, as regular season games were being canceled at a rapid pace.
In early December, it looked as if the NHL and NHLPA were getting closer to an agreement. Just as fans hopes were on the rise, the negotiations fell through, once again, and with it came a fresh new batch of regular season game to be canceled. Hope was dwindling for fans and media alike. There was so little to inspire hope that there would actually be a season, combined with so much compiled negative realities to be made even the most optimistic of fans have little faith in there being a season.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stated that each team would have to play the minimum of a 48-game schedule, in order for there to be a season. If not…then the NHL would have its second lockout since 2004-2005, an unprecedented black eye in the sports world.
Maybe it was the motivation brought on by the doomsday clock deadline, but whatever it was, it worked, as the clock was ticking on the possibility of a season, the NHL and NHLPA came to an agreement on a CBA, on January 6th, 2013. To many, it was a day that many thought would never come, and they had every right to think that, as there was hardly any traction gained until the eleventh hour. Whatever it was, it didn’t matter, there was going to be an NHL season, and those lingering questions left over from the disappointing end to the 2011-2012 campaign for the Blackhawks, were about to be answered.