A word was thrown around pretty freely Monday night — and continues to be used on Celebration Tuesday — describing what the Chicago Blackhawks are after winning their third Stanley Cup in six seasons, earned by defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 in Game 6.
The definition of a sports dynasty varies from person to person, but in the salary-cap era of the NHL, three championships in six season fits the bill. The difficulty of winning it all in back-to-back years can not be understated, due to the length of the regular season and playoffs, as well as how much skill is possessed by NHL players across all teams.
So three Cups spread out over six seasons, being won in 2010, 2013 and 2015, is a dynasty. And it’s incredible to say the ’Hawks are that.
Take a look at how we got to this point. Chicago was voted the worst professional sports franchise by ESPN in 2006. The team was certainly bad on the ice, finishing with the third-worst record in the 2005-06 season (saving grace: the Blues were the absolute worst). Bill Wirtz was blacking out home games with the hope that it would encourage fans to show up (it didn’t). The team fired beloved TV broadcaster Pat Foley in 2006 because … reasons.
But good things were transpiring for the ’Hawks at the same time. Thanks to that horrible finish in 2005-06, Chicago was able to draft Jonathan Toews. Thanks to another pretty bad record in 2006-07, the ’Hawks were able to nab Patrick Kane in the 2007 draft.
And while it’s terrible to say, it’s worth noting that something else happened in 2007 that wound up having a positive effect on the franchise: Bill Wirtz passed away. While it’s always sad for someone in the ’Hawks family to pass — as we’ve seen too many times this season — it opened the door for Rocky Wirtz to run the franchise.
And run it he has. He worked to get games televised on Comcast SportsNet. He hired John McDonough as team president. He eventually brought back Foley and brought in Joel Quenneville to manage the team. Stan Bowman was also brought in as general manager. Relationships were repaired with former players who are now team ambassadors. Wirtz worked to get the fans falling in love with the ’Hawks again.
Da Windy City
And with that, as well as the growth of players like Toews, Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson — as well as the additions of Patrick Sharp and, later, Marian Hossa — the opportunity to create a dynasty was on.
In the 2007-08 season, Chicago finished just three points behind playoff-bound Nashville. But the ’Hawks really began to show what they — the core, the role players, the front office — were capable of the following season, when Q was hired after four games and the team earned 104 points and a playoff spot. Viewers outside the Chicago fanbase expected a quick exit from the ’Hawks, but they ousted Calgary and Vancouver before falling to the eventual Cup champion Detroit Red Wings in the Conference Finals.
That was just a taste of what was to come. The 2008-09 run had many alienated fans returning, and it created many new ones. The ’Hawks built their image around “Captain Serious” Toews and his seemingly polar opposite in Kane. They picked up Hossa, who had just been a part of back-to-back Stanley Cup losses. They finished with the third-most points in the league in 2009-10. And they brought the Stanley Cup back to Chicago for the first time since 1961.
The ’Hawks made it clear this wasn’t to be a one-off thing. Parts had to be moved after the 2010 Cup, but the ’Hawks weren’t in the rebuilding business. They were — and will continue to be — in the reloading business. After two first-round exits in 2011 and 2012, the ’Hawks turned smart signings and drafting into another Stanley Cup in 2013. They nearly did the same in 2014. And then they did do the same last night.
You’re looking at a team that is built to win, but also knows how to win, on all stages. The ’Hawks have had that “it” factor since Toews was drafted in 2006. And they’ve expanded upon that year after year ever since. Being a dynasty isn’t just about having a few good players. It’s about success in all aspects of being a pro sports organization. And the ’Hawks have that in spades.
The ’Hawks aren’t the New York Yankees or New England Patriots of the NHL. The Yankees spend until they drop (does baseball even have a salary cap?). The Patriots are recognizable for two names, Brady and Belichick. The Chicago Blackhawks are winners through and through, a dynasty built on the backs of too many people to count, from those on the ice to those off it. The Chicago Blackhawks are the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL.
And there’s no indication this is stopping any time soon. Things can change, of course, but we’re in a golden age of Chicago hockey. Enjoy the dynasty, ’Hawks fans.
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