Blackhawks Win Stanley Cup
Kane, Toews, & Co. are champs again as the Blackhawks stun the Bruins in Game 6 with two late goals to seal the title. The feat marks the team’s second Stanley Cup title in four years, speaking to the incredible turnaround this franchise has made over the last half decade.
Three years ago, the Philadelphia Flyers fought for their playoff lives at home in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at home against the Blackhawks. Scott Hartnell scored a game-tying goal in the third period and Philly forced overtime, but ultimately Patrick Kane ended the Finals on a dramatic overtime goal that no one saw, slipping under goalie Michael Leighton.
On Monday night, the Bruins were in a very similar position as Philly three years earlier. Actually, they had even more in their favor. They had dominated the Blackhawks for most of the game, controlling the tempo and outshooting the Hawks 12-6 in the first period, taking a 2-1 lead in the third period. With all the momentum on their side, the Bruins maintained that lead with under two minutes remaining until Bryan Bickell knocked in a rebound with 1:16 to go, tying the game at two. Then on the next offensive chance, Dave Bolland stuffed in another rebound behind goalie Tuukka Rask to give the Hawks a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
A stunned crowd at the TD Garden could only watch as the Hawks ran out the clock on an exhausted Bruins team that could barely muster anything offensively in the last minute. The Hawks celebrated upon the final buzzer, and out came NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to present Lord Stanley’s cup. After a brief speech congratulating the Hawks front office and coach Joel Quenneville, Bettman gave the Cup to Jonathan Toews, who passed it on to the rest of the team.
The Hawks’ second championship in four years doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise to the team’s faithful fans, especially considering the season the team had. But that’s because of the team’s incredibly exciting core and the fact that this season was one of the best by any team in the history of the NHL. The Blackhawks now represent a model franchise, with a long, proud history, current success, youth to continue a possible dynasty in the future, and a hugely passionate fan base in the NHL’s largest single-team market. It’s even more remarkable to note where the franchise came from to get to this point.
While the Hawks have led the NHL in attendance in each of the last five years, it’s easy to forget that just six seasons ago they had the second-lowest attendance at 12,727 fans per game, or just 62.1% of the United Center’s seats. Few fans came to see a bad team play home games that weren’t even on local television, as directed by former owner Bill Wirtz, who thought televising the games would be unfair to season ticket holders. There weren’t many season ticket holders to please in his last years, however, and the beginning of his son Rocky’s reign at the top ignited the turnaround of the franchise.
Rocky Wirtz immediately made many changes after his father’s death in 2007, negotiating with Comcast SportsNet Chicago to televise more home games, adding more pre-recorded music instead of the organ to attract younger fans (including a new goal song, “Chelsea Dagger”), fixing the franchise’s broken relationships with former stars Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, hiring Chicago Cubs President John McDonough to be President of the Blackhawks, and retaining general manager Dale Tallon and head coach Denis Savard to continue the Hawks’ youth movement.
Savard was fired near the beginning of the 2008-09 season in favor of the strict Joel Quenneville, who accelerated the rebuilding process that was centered around the third overall draft pick in the 2006 NHL Draft (Toews) and the first overall pick in the 2007 Draft (Kane). Those two joined Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp, and Brent Seabrook on the Blackhawks, and the team has since added Marian Hossa, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, and more, creating a perennial championship-caliber roster.
The franchise turnaround for the Blackhawks has been as dramatic as any in the history of the NHL, and probably of any in the history of American pro sports. In 2004, ESPN named the Chicago Blackhawks, who were amidst a stretch of nine non-playoff seasons in ten years, as the worst franchise in American pro sports.
Now, with five consecutive playoff appearances, two Stanley Cup championships and a strong possibility for more, and the franchise at an all-time high in popularity, the Blackhawks could easily be named the best.
And that’s why whether you’re a life-long diehard or just recently jumped on the Rocky Wirtz bandwagon, we all love our Hawks. Gold Coast Tickets congratulates the 2013 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks!
Featured Photo Source: chicagonow.com