Chris Chelios signs wit Chicago Blackhawks (Photo courtesy of suntimes.com)
Chris Chelios, Detroit Red Wings defenseman
Why he’s a Blackhawks ghost: I’m not sure I need to explain this one to a sizable portion of the fan base. In March 1999, the Blackhawks captain since 1995 and one of its most-recognizable faces since 1990 was moved to the rival Detroit Red Wings for a return that would never be good enough. This may have been the moment the dark times started for the Blackhawks, as they made the playoffs once in the next eight seasons following Chelios’ departure.
Chelios went on to be part of some very good Red Wings teams and get recognized by the hockey masses as a Red Wing instead of as a Blackhawk. He won a pair of Stanley Cups with Detroit after helping Chicago get close in 1992. Chelios was 37 when he was traded to Detroit, but he still had a ton in the tank. It was painful to see it used somewhere else, especially since that somewhere else was a rival city. So it’s not necessarily his fault he’s a Blackhawks ghost, but he is one all the same.
Jan 18, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; General view of the Mario Lemieux statue and the exterior of the CONSOL Energy Center before the Pittsburgh Penguins host the New York Rangers. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins center
Why he’s a Blackhawks ghost: There’s not doubting Lemieux is one of the best to ever lace up the skates in the NHL. But would it have killed him to have had an off stretch back in May 1992? Blackhawks fans are certainly wishing it would’ve been possible. Chicago had in the previous year crossed the 30-season mark for a Stanley Cup drought, but it looked like it might not go much longer at this time. The Blackhawks managed to knock off a pair of rivals in the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings — the latter whom had finished ahead of the Blackhawks in the divisional race — before sweeping the Edmonton Oilers in the conference finals.
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That left Lemieux and the Penguins in the way of immortality. The Pens, like the Blackhawks, had achieved an 87-point regular season. But the Stanley Cup Final series between the teams was anything but even, in large part because of Lemieux’s offensive talents. He tallied five goals and two assists against a pair of future Hall of Fame goaltenders in Ed Belfour and Dominik Hasek as Pittsburgh swept Chicago, winning high-scoring games (5-4 in Game 1 and 6-5 in Game 4) and low-scoring efforts (3-1 in Game 2 and 1-0 in Game 3). A special-guest ghost award goes to Rick Tocchet, who led Pittsburgh with eight points in the four games.
But Lemieux was the center of the Penguins’ world, and that makes him the ultimate Blackhawks ghost in this instance. What made it worse was this turned out to be the Blackhawks’ best chance at breaking their championship drought until it actually was broken in 2010. Another long wait for diehard fans.
Curtis Joseph showing off his legendary helmet. picture courtesy: Dave Sanford/ Getty Images
Curtis Joseph, St. Louis Blues goaltender
Why he’s a Blackhawks ghost: Turns out there’s precedent for what Smith did to the Blackhawks in the 2012 playoffs. What should have been the Blackhawks’ best chance at ending their title drought came in the season after they fell in the Cup Final to Pittsburgh. Chicago rebounded with a division-winning campaign in 1992-93, posting the most points in their conference and third-most in the league. They drew the rival Blues, the team with the fewest points among all playoff qualifiers, in the opening round.
The result was pretty much the opposite of what would’ve happened on paper. Belfour was rocked to the tune of an .866 save percentage in four games. Jeremy Roenick, Steve Larmer, Brent Sutter, Chelios and others could get nothing going on offense. And Joseph was in the middle of it all, posting a .957 save percentage with two shutouts in four consecutive wins, all while facing 43 more shots than Belfour.
The Blues went on to lose their next series, and the Blackhawks went on to a few seasons of so-so results while saying goodbye to key pieces like Roenick, Chelios and Belfour, and saying goodbye to consistent success. Joseph is truly a ghost because of what he did to the Blackhawks in the 1993 playoffs, and what happened in the aftermath.
Next: Get Ready For Two More Big-Time Haunts
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