With Stanley Cup, hockey finally comes in from the cold in Chicago
PHILADELPHIA -- The Stanley Cup-winning goal should be a transcendent moment, engraved in memory and history, a glorious conclusion to the pursuit of one of the most arduous trophies to win.
Alas, this overtime goal needed subtitles.
No red light. No emphatic signal for the referee. The money shot of the 2010 playoffs was proving to be as awkward as a pimply eighth-grader trying to ask a girl for a dance.
The stunned Flyers stayed on the bench as the referees asked for a video review of the most muddled Stanley Cup-winner since
The Blackhawks, happily expectant, waited for confirmation. Why not?
After 49 years, Chicago could hold on another minute.
Blackhawks 4, Flyers 3.
Shortly after 11 p.m. EDT, Chicago got off the schneid that had lasted a nearly half a century. This was the longest current streak of futility in the NHL (
Now, there are sudden reversals in the sports entertainment business all the time, but they generally involve a wrestler taking a length of lead pipe out of his tights and going to town. The 'Hawks ... well, this was strictly legit.
Led by captain
Sharp's first game in the distinctive Blackhawks jersey was against the Rangers, a nominally attractive Original Six match-up. Not that Chicagoland seemed to notice.
"I remember looking around and seeing 9,000 people," Sharp, the second-line center, recalled early in the final. "I had come from a first-place team in Philly, and now this. Years ago I would have never expected (our franchise) to turn around so quickly. (The Cup) means a lot to everybody, but especially to guys like (Keith and defense partner
Mark it down. June 9, 2010 is the day Hawkeytown officially came in from the cold.
In truth, a 'Hawks renaissance always had been low-hanging fruit. After years of irrelevance and incompetence, Chicago sifted through the rubble of past mistakes, rebuilt on the ice and off, and etched its name on a 35-pound trophy while engraving its brand into the hearts of formerly disaffected fans. As the party swirled around him on the Wachovia Center ice, owner
So what was the primordial moment when the franchise started on the long road back to relevance? You can argue it was actually in 2002 when the 'Hawks drafted Keith, a Norris Trophy-caliber defenseman, a prescient choice that predates the selections of captain Toews in 2006 and Kane in 2007, a pair of high-end picks. (Keith, who lost seven front teeth in the clinching win against the Sharks in the Western Conference Finals, said after the game that he doesn't worry about teeth, that he would have them all knocked out to win a Cup.) But for many embittered 'Hawks fans, the rebirth began with the death of Blackhawks chairman
Wirtz was an NHL colossus, one of its great power brokers and a man with a heart that was often in the right place even if his mind was back in the 1960s. You could land at O'Hare, mention the Blackhawks to a stranger and within 90 seconds, as guaranteed as death and taxes, you could hear a complaint about the 'Hawks' absence from local TV. Former general manager
But with the surprising ascension of Rocky to chairman -- most in the hockey world assumed that Wirtz's younger son
The 'Hawks skipped the 20th century and went directly to the 21st in November 2007 when they hired the man who was most responsible for turning Wrigley Field into a baseball theme park.
The season ticket base was 3,400 in 2007. Now there is a waiting list of as long as Toews' accomplishments -- Olympic gold medal, Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe.
How about Captain Spectacular?
"I think Rocky Wirtz lay awake at night thinking: 'I can't wait to get the reins of that hockey club because it's going to change when I get it'," Hull told SI earlier in the finals. "And he did everything right. He got rid of (longtime executive
The 'Hawks made an extended playoff run in 2009, reaching the conference finals and settling on a burrow-in-your-brain ditty called
For every home game in the final at the United Center, a shot of the Mount Rushmore of 'Hawks' hockey -- Hull, Mikita, Tony O and
The ending was most uncomfortable -- "I tried to sell the celebration," Kane admitted -- but it did provide closure if not the climax that a quirky, engaging, sloppy, riveting and goal-filled final deserved.
Now the 'Hawks can really paint their Cup-starved city red.