Tonight the Chicago Blackhawks take on the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center with the hopes of clinching the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs. This past Sunday the Hawks gained the lead in the series 3-2 after a win on their home ice in Chicago. Yet, in addition to the 2-1 final score of the game, another aspect of the outing made certain headlines.
Certain talking heads, analysts, writers, and publications that shall remain nameless noted with much disbelief and irritation that after a lackluster first period performance, the home crowd at the Madhouse on Madison was actually booing their Blackhawks and went on to dismiss Hawks fans as spoiled and ungrateful. They were mortified that there were such fans out there that had the audacity to voice disappointment at team who has brought them two Stanley Cups in four years.
This topical assessment, is just that, topical, and grossly misperceives the animal that is the Chicago Blackhawks fan. As a loyal Hawks fan since the late 1980’s, let me explain why my fellow fans and I expect, and deserve, the best from our beloved Chicago Blackhawks.
First and foremost, Blackhawks fans deserve to keep their expectations high because they’ve been forced to keep them so low for so long. People all too often forget that the Chicago Blackhawks organization once seemingly did everything possible to give their fan base the middle finger, whether it was chasing away talents like Jeremy Roenick and Ed Belfour, or refusing to broadcast home games on TV. It’s no wonder the Hawks were called the poster child of everything wrong with the NHL during the 2005 lockout. It would have been easier to stomach if the Hawks were a newly minted franchise like the Columbus Blue Jackets or Nashville Predators (which former Blackhawk Steve Sullivan joined to improve his NHL career), but the Blackhawks are an Original Six team, and such disrespect to their fans was disrespect to their legacy. Needless to say the turnaround of the Blackhawks franchise under Rocky Wirtz is worthy of a Harvard Business School case study, if it’s not already.
More importantly however, it would have been one thing if the Blackhawks’ 2010 Stanley Cup win still remained their sole championship in recent history. Had the 2010 Cup victory turned out to be more or less a one and done type deal, Blackhawks fans probably would have been comfortable riding that achievement till question marks, because after all, it’s a familiar hat for Chicago denizens to wear (see Chicago Bears, 1985). Yet when the Blackhawks again won the Stanley Cup in 2013, they entered a whole new realm, a fact not lost on their fans.
The Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup last year proved a lot of things, but the most crucial was the confirmation that the Hawks are an organization build for sustained success. After 2013, bandwagon and diehard fans alike know that their Hawks have a championship-winning foundation, a foundation that can be built upon for years to come, which is something else with which Chicago denizens have a familiarity (see Chicago Bulls, 1991-1993 and 1996-1998).
The fundamental thing here is that while the Blackhawks themselves may not yet perceive what truly great potential they possess, their fans do because they’ve seen it before and are going to remind the Hawks of it every chance they get at the United Center. Hawks fans see no reason why the likes of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews can’t become the equivalent second coming of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and bring the corresponding amount of championship hardware to Chi-Town. The Blackhawks organization certainly should come to this conclusion as well, if they haven’t already.
That is why Blackhawks fans have such high standards: they’re familiar with what their boys in red, white, and black are capable of each game, and if they’re not seeing it, they’re going to let it be known. Many analysts refer to the Hawks needing to play Blackhawks hockey all three periods in a game. However Blackhawks hockey has evolved from Stanley Cup hockey, to dynasty hockey, and whether they’re consciously chasing it or not, the Blackhawks being on the cusp of a dynasty is something their fans are certainly not going to let them forget.
FOR THE DAGGER!