Sunday, February 17, 2013

One Year Of Glory

     The baseball season is approaching, it seems to have put me in a writing mood. So lately I have been exploring my favorite seasons for my top 4 sports teams. I have previously covered the Chicago Bears here, and the Chicago Bulls here. Next, and last, I will have the San Francisco Giants. As you will see below, hockey is not my favorite sport. I enjoy it, but know nothing of strategy. I can watch a game and understand it, but I have no idea what any of the plays are. Plus, history is always big with me, so I enjoy the rich tradition that is hockey and the Stanley Cup. As always, the team stats are from my lifetime (since 1979)

Chicago Blackhawks
Playoff Appearances - 23 (80-97,02,09-12)
Conf Finals - 2-7 (82,83,85,89,90,92,95,09,10)
Stanley Cup - 1-1 (92,10)

     There really no debate as to the best and my most favorite Chicago Blackhawks season. It is when they won the cup in 2010. My history as a fan of the Hawks had been shaky. I grew up in Chicago's TV market and Bill Wirtz, the owner, blacked out home games. It was the antiquated notion that it would make people come see the games and spend money. You put a good product on the ice, people will come, and ad sales on TV will be huge. So I didn't watch the Hawks as much. They would be on a road trip and there was a game on every other night, then they would disappear for a couple weeks while playing at home. So I barely saw the games. As one friend said to me, I've seen more Miami Dolphins football games than I have Chicago Blackhawks games.

     In 2010 I was living in a town called Paradise a little west of Philadelphia. The Olympics that year got me hooked, so I was intrigued by the hockey. Watching the USA-Canada battle in Vancouver was one of the greatest games I have ever seen, in any sport. Knowing that the Hawks were doing well, my interest in hockey got higher. The sight of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane going head to head made me want to watch them together so much more. So I watched the rest of the season when I could. Marian Hossa was as good as I had thought he once was, and Dustin Byfuglien just irratated the hell out of other teams.
     The Stanley Cup Playoffs didn't seem to be as hard for this Hawks team as others of the past. Nashville got pesky in the first round but then riding the back of Anti Niemmi they moved on. Beating Vancouver in the 2nd round was getting over the hump. The Canucks had been better than the Blackhawks in recent years, and turned them away in the playoffs. Revenge was taken in a 4-2 series victory. San Jose was a point better than the Hawks in the regular season, but they got their ass kicked by a determined Chicago hockey team. After sweeping the Sharks, it was on the the Finals.

     Since I wasn't living far from Philly I kept an eye on the Flyers on the other side of the bracket. They made an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals after squeaking into the playoffs as the #8 seed by one point.  After making an 0-3 comeback against Boston the Flyers handled Montreal rather easily in the East Finals.  It was a David and Goliath matchup. I was rooting for Goliath in David's backyard. It was fun to watch the Blackhawks on the big stage. Even better after 2 games and the Hawks had a 2-0 lead. 

     In Philly the Flyers clawed their way back to tie the series. But Game 5 was in Chicago, and the Hawks went off. Seven goals were scored by six different players, and the Hawks had jumped out to an early 3 goal lead after 1 period. There didn't seem to be any way Philly would recover. They didn't. In Game 6 in Philly, Patrick Kane's goal from the side that snuck right behind Leighton in OT clinched the first Stanley Cup for Chicago since 1961. Hockey was never as interesting to me than it was in 2010, and Chelsea Dagger never sounded sweeter.

Eric Nathanson

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