CHICAGO -- Every day, people from all across the world make the trip out to Madison Street in Chicago -- sometimes alone, sometimes by the busload. They make the 10-minute detour out of the city center just to see a statue of the world's most famous basketball player frozen in time, in that iconic pose with a ball in his right hand and his legs leaping, giving the illusion that he's flying through thin air.
But what those who made the trek to the United Center on the eve of the Stanley Cup finals saw was the Windy City being swept up in Blackhawks Fever. They saw
"Sometimes it almost feels like you're too young to really know what's going on," 21-year-old Blackhawks winger
Now, after five days of dissecting matchups, thinking over strategy, trying to verbalize the excitement of their teams and their cities, the Blackhawks and Flyers can finally quit talking and get out on the ice. And when the final whistle blows, whenever that may be over the next two weeks, it is certain to be an historic event.
See, it turns out the NHL's "History Will Be Made" ads -- those old-timey videos that run iconic highlights backwards -- weren't just clever (and easily parodied) marketing ploys. History will, in fact, be made one way or the other. If the Blackhawks take a turn with the Cup, it'll be the first in 49 years, the league's longest active Stanley Cup drought. And if the East's No. 7 Flyers lift it, they'll be the lowest-seeded champs ever.
No matter the final victor, there will be a worthy winner at the end of the line. The Blackhawks, who have excelled all season, are led by a young core that includes Toews, Kane and defensemen
The Flyers have traveled a far less gilded path this season, underachieving for months as turmoil in the team led to rampant losing, a coaching change and playing for survival the last month of the season. But even slated as underdogs from Round 1, the Flyers never quit. They've been throwing convention out of the window all postseason, handily dismissing the Devils in five, before pulling off the ultimate comeback against the Bruins. The Flyers won't quit, which should make this finals matchup worth the wait, and it may not take too long before the hate begins to build.
"The weird part is we don't know much about the 'Hawks," says Philadelphia forward
Now, that sounds like a Flyer. The physicality of this series won't be a question. With a 257-pound weight by the name of
But there we go, talking about matchups and strategies again. It's sort of unavoidable, what with the five days of buildup in between. But enough already. There's been enough chatter; now it's time to play puck.