Tomorrow evening, our beloved Chicago Blackhawks will embark on their fifth consecutive quest for the Stanley Cup as they face-off against the St. Louis Blues in the Scottrade Center. This first round playoffs series has received much attention as a match-up of “budding rivals” now that the Hawks’ more infamous and traditional rival, the Detroit Red Wings, have been moved to the Eastern Conference. Given the potency of the Blues and Hawks’ talent, this opening playoff series is certainly going to be hard fought, not to mention the 300 mile proximity of St. Louis and Chicago will keep tensions high among fans as they cross back and forth over the Mississippi. However, most Blackhawks faithful don’t realize (bandwagon fans, I’m looking in your direction) that this “developing rivalry” is nothing more than the bad blood that has always been simmering between the Hawks and Blues once again coming to a boil now that the two franchises have returned to prominence.
Fact: the Blues and Blackhawks have been at each other’s throats since day one. Unlike the Detroit Red Wings, who took a decade-long hiatus from the Blackhawks’ division in the 1970’s before they were reunited in the Norris Division in 1981, the St. Louis Blues have always been in the same division as the Hawks ever since their 1967 inception into the NHL. Additionally, both these squads qualified for the playoffs every NHL season between 1980 and 1997. It’s no surprise that both teams’ ancestral arenas, Chicago Stadium and St. Louis Arena, were regarded as the two loudest NHL venues in their day.
Between their geographic and divisional proximity, from the onset the Blues and Hawks were primed to clash frequently, and frequently clash they have. Historically, the Blackhawks hold the edge over the Blues, with a 163–125–42 record in their total regular and post season meetings. As we all know however, rivalries go way beyond numbers.
The Blues-Hawks rivalry hit its zenith during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s when both squads were replete with legends: Jeremy Roenick, Ed Belfour, and Chris Chelios on the Blackhawks and Brett Hull, Curtis Joseph, and Adam Oates on the Blues.
Perhaps the most notable chapters in the Blues-Hawks rivalry occurred during a Blackhawks 6-4 win over the Blues on March 17, 1991. This contest was so laden with such a gross amount penalty minutes and fights it became known in NHL circles as the “St. Patrick’s Day Massacre.” Both teams were competing for the Presidents’ Trophy and the heated competition broiled into an all-out brawl after the Blues’ Glen Featherstone took exception to Jeremy Roenick’s hard hit on Harold Snepsts and Hawks’ Keith Brown retaliated in kind. The aftermath included multiple-game suspensions for two Hawks and one Blues player and both teams being fined $10,000.
The infamy of the Blues-Hawks’ rivalry would again hit a high point in 1993. Despite the Blackhawks definitively winning the division in the regular season, they were upset in a 4 game sweep by the Blues in the Norris Division Semifinal. The Blackhawks lost the clinching game when Hawks goalie Ed Belfour yielded an OT goal. Belfour claimed Blues forward Brett Hull had interfered with him on the tally and the score being upheld regardless led “The Eagle” to take out his frustration in the locker room: causing thousands of dollars of damage to the Blues visitors’ dressing room by destroying the coffee maker, hot tub and TV. Belfour would refuse to play in a regular season game in St. Louis for the rest of his career.
Now, after a cooling-off period between the late 1990’s and mid 2000’s when the Hawks and Blues both underwent various retooling, this Central Division rivalry has yet again heated up in recent years. Tomorrow, if history is any guide, this 2014 opening playoff series between the Blues and Blackhawks will likely pen another brutal chapter is this long standing rivalry. Here’s hoping the Hawks can maintain their edge.
FOR THE DAGGER!