WASHINGTON DC- It was a Saturday evening around 7:23 PM when I sat into my seat – beer in hand I looked around at the other 22,000 people doing the very same thing – thinking the very same thoughts. That’s when the lights went out – that’s when the decibels inside the Madhouse began to rise. The Chicago Blackhawks in recent years have become the epitome of what a professional sports franchise should be. Accountable, honorable and humble – they repay their fans just as much as they pay their team – the home opener was sure to please.
Before the game could begin however, there was to be a pre-game ceremony and video, or life wouldn’t be normal – that’s when it happened – that’s when it caught my eye. Though it wasn’t as special as a banner raising – it certainly was a “rally cry”. As my ears waited for music, my eyes found the thought being presented to us all…
“IT HAS TO START SOMEWHERE! WHAT BETTER PLACE THAN HERE!? WHAT BETTER TIME THAN NOW?!
Phrase by phrase, one by one, the words came across the screen – until now I couldn’t have agreed more.
Of course the beginning of anything is the perfect place to start. For the Hawks, the home opener was the first chance to rid their memory of last years Western Conference Final – of what could’ve been – of what very well should have been. Offering up the opportunity to replace it with, “what can be” or even “what will be”. In less than twenty four hours the Hawks will officially embark on their 2015 Quest for their One Goal. That quest will begin with the 2015 Bridgestone Winter Classic where the eyes of the entire league and world will be focused on them. So I now ask you, “What better place than outside? What better place than Washington DC? What better time than Thursday!?”
“They’ve been in a lot of big game situations, and they relish them, they crave them… That’s my big thing with this group. They love to deliver and they continue to deliver.” – Kevin Weekes on the Chicago Blackhawks
There are times when some in this game find themselves talking resiliency – which teams have it and which teams don’t. It will be referenced lots of times during the playoffs – the most during the Stanley Cup Finals. Until those moments, not much will be said or focused on in that category. It will simply be mentioned, in soft whispers at the end of statements about teams with potential.
But can resiliency and tenacity and courage and sheer power really be defined inside a sixty minute stretch? When you’re talking about the Chicago Blackhawks, the answer is an overwhelming – YES!
I’m talking about the Hawks 5-4 OT win over the Nashville Predators in Chicago on December 29, 2014. I’m telling you the date because you will hear it again come April – it will be referenced – it will be talked about at length. Though the topic won’t as much be about the game itself, but more the message that the Blackhawks sent.
Somewhere along the way in last years post season, I forgot, Chicago forgot, WE ALL forgot that this team once had to come from behind. That they were a team that could overcome mishaps and any other challenge that was presented to them. Yet as the Hawks attempted to defend their title, it was the Kings and their ridiculousness that swept the headlines – suddenly we all had forgotten.
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The one and two goal leads that used to be secure, suddenly weren’t. The penalties given up, suddenly converted at staggering rates. It was worse than being down two games to the Red Wings and on the verge of elimination. It was bad and yet it took seven games, and some overtime to finally disperse of the Hawks. If the Los Angeles Kings were resilient last season – they learned that trait the year before from the Hawks.
But as is with this city and this team, as quickly as it went, it has suddenly returned and it just might be here to stay. There was a demographic shown during the Nashville game and I don’t intend to bore you with the specifics – out of four categories the Hawks were first in three of them – the other, third. I’d tell you the categories but it really doesn’t matter – the point is made, and made clearly.
Their win over the Nashville Predators was the last the Hawks would play in the calendar year of 2014. It was also their loudest message, louder than the circus trip, louder than the league leading win streak, it was a 3-0 deficit, a hole the Hawks don’t usually find themselves in – but like Champions do, they found a way out and into the sun. Even better, the year 2014 is over. The sting can ease, the visions of that game seven in June can truly fade away – it’s finally, officially over.
It’s now 2015 and By Golly Miss Molly, this could sure be another Hawks year. If there were ever to be a story told about a team that made a run at Lord Stanley’s Cup – how could it not include the outdoor, Bridgestone Winter Classic? Especially if that team’s quest is for their third cup in six seasons.
Da Windy City
The stage alone will beckon something out of a story book, just as the Stadium Series did at Soldiers Field last year in Chicago – a picture perfect setting right out of a snow globe. Though the outcome of the game will most certainly be influenced by mother nature and the occasions grandeur, there’s no better way to officially kick off their Quest for the 2015 Stanley Cup than at the Winter Classic.
Sure, we’ll all be disappointed if they should fall to the Capitals tomorrow – but the more important issue is the moment and what it could and does mean to the Blackhawks. Just as the season began with the knowledge that this day would come, so too will the Playoffs, and they will arrive in the blink of an eye. So I ask the question again…
“What better place than here, what better time than now?”
HAWKS VS CAPITALS 12 PM CST NBC
Follow the Hawks @Blackhawk_Up and myself @ZRaderstorf