What I’ve Learned the Past Year Blogging About the Chicago Blackhawks
By Aaron Goldschmidt
"CHICAGO, IL – MARCH 21: Chicago Blackhawks left wing Richard Panik (14) celebrates his goal in the third period during a game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks on March 21, 2017, at the United Center in Chicago, IL. Canucks won 5-4 in overtime. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)"
The Chicago Blackhawks have taught us all about love, loss, and moving on
I will be the first to admit it. I’m a bandwagon fan.
I didn’t grow up idolizing Bobby Hull, or understand what it was like during the “dark ages” at the United Center. I don’t remember the roar at the old Chicago Stadium and I can’t tell you how great Jeremy Roenick was without lying to you.
I learned the game of hockey when I was 20 years old in 2009 and haven’t stopped watching since. I heard about the buzz of the Blackhawks while I was in college and became interested in their two hotshot superstars named Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. I thought it was so cool that someone my age could have such a big impact on the NHL and it’s been a heck of a ride ever since.
It’s almost been a year since I wrote my first article for Blackhawk Up, and reading it today gives me the shivers. In the article titled Chicago Blackhawks Know Central Division Can’t Be Bullied Anymore, I describe the improvements teams in the Blackhawks division made that will make them more of a threat in 2016-17. A team I identify specifically was the Nashville Predators.
Since writing that article, I have learned so much about the Blackhawks team, the business behind the game, and the overwhelming support of the hockey community.
A few years ago, I decided I would take a lesson and attempt to learn the game of hockey. I could barely keep my balance on the ice, and I thought I was lightyears away from playing in a pickup game. But right there with me were a handful of people who were in the exact same boat. Together we stunk up the joint but made little strides to get better each week. Every stick and puck I went to, seasoned players would give me tips and help me along my journey. I learned that hockey is a blue collar sport where the community wants you to get better and challenge yourself. I knew then that this was the definition of getting out of my comfort zone, in the form of being on a much more slippery surface.
It’s been almost a decade since Chicago has gone Blackhawks crazy. After those Bulls championships in the 90s, there was a whole lot of nothing to cheer about. It was mostly misery and one White Sox World Series, but mostly misery.
The Blackhawks have since pumped life into the Chicago sports scene and have created a winning culture in the city.
Today bars are packed for every game, training camps sell out, and Blackhawks fans routinely outdraw opposing teams on the road. The ‘Hawks are on national TV more than any other team because of the massive support they receive from thousands of fans around the country.
It’s an obvious statement to say Blackhawks fans are spoiled, but they are in a unique way. The leadership on the ‘Hawks is second to none. Since the age of 19, this has been Jonathan Toews’ team. “Captain Serious,” Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook have led this team through thick and thin, and a lot of other teams haven’t had that luxury. Some NHL teams sometimes go a season without naming a captain. The consistency of the captains, their longtime head coach Joel Quenneville, and the ‘Hawks front office has executed their mission of “One Goal” that has earned the respect of Chicago fans everywhere.
If I told you the Blackhawks would be good forever, you would know I was lying through my teeth. Like every other product, there is a lifecycle. A marketing guru would tell you that it consists of an introduction, growth, maturity, and a decline stage. If I had to pin-point where the Blackhawks are in their cycle, I would admit they are in the decline stage only after letting out a long sigh.
Three Stanley Cups in six years. That is a lot. So much that the ‘Hawks have aggravated the rest of the NHL community in ways similar to my hatred of the New England Patriots. But success breeds hatred and a desire to beat the best.
The Blackhawks have been ousted the the past two seasons in the first round making the summer a lot longer than ‘Hawks fans would like. I guess we’re so used to watching hockey through June and partying until October. But it’s been too quiet.
More from Blackhawk Up
- Blackhawks: List Of Things To Be Thankful For This Thanksgiving
- The perfect holiday gifts for the Chicago Blackhawks fan
- Blackhawks vs Flames: Date, Time, Lineup, Betting Odds, More
- Chicago Blackhawks Winning- Temper Those Expectations
- Three Takeaways from the Blackhawks’ Win vs Vancouver
This summer, ‘Hawks fans were forced to say goodbye to a couple of fan favorites in Marian Hossa and Niklas Hjalmarsson. This isn’t the first time we’ve had to part ways with a player that contributed to a championship season, but these two losses seemed to cut deep. I don’t think their departures signal for an end to an era as many are suggesting, but the reality of not hearing play-by-play announcer Pat Foley mention their names on the local broadcast feels empty.
Another change in the Blackhawks tradition is not having color analyst Eddie Olczyk calling games. Olczyk was diagnosed with colon caner recently and is currently undergoing treatment. His influence in the hockey community in Illinois and around the country is admirable to the highest degree. He is a well respected advocate of USA hockey, amateur development, and an overall great ambassador to the NHL. Everyone is hoping Eddie can make it back to the broadcast booth soon and back better than ever.
Just like life, variables are constantly changing in hockey. What was then isn’t necessarily now, and probably won’t be in the future. Playoff heroes like Dustin Byfuglien and Brian Bickell will always have a place in our hearts, but now only have a place on our walls in a nice picture frame.
It’s truly amazing to think about the different teams that Blackhawks have had who have won the Stanley Cup. The conversation comparing the three isn’t unheard of, but it’s done solely for fandom debate. What has been the consistent variables through all three championships has been “the core” which is now starting to dwindle.
Watching the Blackhawks through this dynasty has given me a lot of perspective about how special times like these are and how to embrace every moment. It’s possible that this team could be done winning cups for a while which makes this time even more special. The last guy had to wait almost 50 years for the Hawks to win another cup!
It’s interesting to step back and see how the ups and downs of a regular season can drive us crazy, but it’s even more interesting to follow the trend. Winning and losing is a lot of fun to talk about but it seems more and more for the birds. I used to think that Jonathan Toews was dead inside because his post game answers were so emotionless, but now I know why. Jonathan Toews is a long-term thinker and he knows that one bad game isn’t going to hurt the direction of his team. He has much bigger things on his mind, which is a quality I’ve tried to adopt myself.
Next: Blackhawks Offseason What-If's for 2017-18
Everyday we experience good games and bad games for ourselves. Sometimes days are so good, we get a shutout, or a hat-trick. Other games, we get shutout. But there’s always another game to look forward to. This year I’ve met a lot of great people and had some fun exploring the benefits this game has to offer yet I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface.
Do yourself a favor and challenge yourself tomorrow. There’s no way you could look as foolish as I did on skates. Here’s to another great season. Go Hawks!