CHICAGO -- In his first game as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, against the New York Rangers in an Original 6 matchup,
Actually there were some 9,000 in the building that distant night, although that figure might have been a matter of creative arithmetic. In any case, a depressed Sharp had come from a first-place team in Philadelphia to a city where the Blackhawks couldn't get arrested.
(These were the pre-
"It's been a big change, that's for sure," said Sharp, who arrived in December 2005, back in the bad old days of the late owner, Dollar
"I just remember the first handful of games I played at home, it was pretty ugly still," said captain
Chicago has come all the way back to the Stanley Cup Final, a testament to the enlightened ownership of Wirtz's son Rocky,
The most dominant players in the series were
But the unspoken star of the series was the city of Chicago itself, which once again is a burly hockey destination. The Bears can have their OTAs, but goalie
Keith took some needles in his mouth to freeze it, spit out the Chiclets and was back on the ice in about seven minutes -- that's roughly one minute per tooth. He would get an assist on
"I was fine," said Keith, when asked if he hesitated about returning to the game. He sounded like a young
"To get hit in the teeth, obviously it hurts the gums, but it's not like the jaw or anything like that ... It was an unlucky play. I knew right away my teeth were smashed in. I felt a chunk of something in there. I figured it was a tooth. Couldn't be anything else. Some teeth were falling out as I was skating off. I coughed one out. It sounds gross, but you know what? It happens all the time to guys."
"Yeah, I told him it's kind of a blessing in disguise because now he's going to get some nice fake teeth," Sharp said. "He's going to have a great smile in a couple weeks. That's playoff hockey all over it. A guy takes one in the face, picking out his teeth in the locker room, comes back."
The grit quotient delighted the 22,224 in the arena, who have embraced this team with a lusty group hug befitting an Original 6 town, a love affair that was unrequited for more than 15 years. As GM
"The city's been dying for this for a long time," said Bowman, who has been with the organization since 2001. "They never went away, the fans. They just got frustrated. Now you see it around the city. Go to a baseball game, and there are as many Blackhawks jerseys as Cubs or White Sox. You really saw it start with the Olympics. (Kane and Toews were both on SI.com's all-tournament team.) My friends who know nothing about hockey got kinda curious then. Now (our run) has really piqued their interest."
If there is a lesson for Bowman from any of the past six weeks, it is this: never spend a dime more than necessary on goaltending. You can find goalies anywhere. The final will be a goaltender's duel between Niemi and probably the Flyers'
The theory of Detroit GM
They don't ask about your salary or your pedigree. (The 26-year-old rookie used to also drive the Zamboni to earn extra money when he played in a lower Finnish league.) They ask if you can stop the puck.
"Well, you got to commend him, how well he's handled the situation," Quenneville said. "I think the one thing that makes him keep moving on, he's a very relaxed guy, very comfortable, confident as he approaches games or during games. (He) just moves ahead to the next shot ... He just goes about it like, 'Hey, I'm just trying to stop the next puck and do my job.'"
"There were a couple of good games early in the season when I got the feeling (I could be a good NHL goalie)," said Niemi, delighted that he now gets a chance to replicate what some fabulous Finns, wingers
Toews didn't touch the Campbell Trophy to emphasis that point, some superstitious hokum that has made a mockery of many of these conference final celebrations. (Penguins captain