By Mike Olson
Sports Dynasty (spohrts dahy-nuh-stee) n. : a team that dominates their sport or league for a length of time. When you think of dynasties in hockey you think of the Montreal Canadiens from 1956-1960 and the New York Islanders from 1979-7982. As of 2010 you can add the Chicago Blackhawks to the discussion. The city of Chicago has one of the greatest fan bases in sports. They started one of the best traditions in sports, at a playoff game in 1985 the crowd applauded and cheered loudly during the whole National Anthem, a ritual they continue to this day. The city stands behind all four of their major sports teams and outside of Michael Jordan’s Bulls the city hasn’t celebrated a championship since Walter Peyton led the Bears to a Super Bowl Victory in 1985.
The Blackhawks were founded in 1926 and were part of the “Original 6” hockey teams formed along with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadians, New York Rangers, Detroit Cougars (now known as the Red Wings) and the Boston Bruins. The Blackhawks played and won (4-1) their first ever game on November 17th against the Toronto St. Patrick’s. In 1931 they made their first Stanley Cup finals losing to the Canadians. It didn’t take long to get back to the finals and in 1933 they hoisted the cup for the first time knocking off the Red Wings. They also went on to win the Cup in 1938 and 1961. But after that it would take another 49 years (the second longest streak in NHL history) before Lord Stanley would appear again.
The rebuilding would begin with the Hawks hitting the lottery two years in a row when they drafted Jonathan Toews (’06) and Patrick Kane (’07). Over the next couple of seasons the team would build around this duo, trading for Andrew Ladd and signing Marian Hossa, and it paid off. In 2010 the team finished with a record of 52-22-8, a season that set franchise records for wins and points. The number “6” was a common theme in the playoffs as three of the four series were over after six games. The number two seed Hawks knocked out the Nashville Predators in the first round in six games along with beating the Vancouver Canucks in the second round in six games. The one seed San Jose Sharks found the Hawks were too much to handle and ended up being swept in four games. It sent the Hawks to Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1992 and the Philadelphia Flyers were the team standing in the way. In a very exciting and high scoring series the 6th game ended in the first overtime when Kane scored a goal that got stuck underneath the back of the net. It wasn’t until video review that the Hawks could officially celebrate their 4th cup and first in 49 years.
The season of 2013 was shortened due to a lockout, but when the season finally did start the Hawks set a record by playing its first 24 games without a regulation loss. They went on to win the President’s Trophy that year for having the best record in the league and managed to clinch home ice throughout the playoffs. The first round was over in five games, defeating the Minnesota Wilde. However the second round didn’t go so easy. The Hawks found themselves down 3-1 in the series against the Red Wings. It took an overtime goal in game seven to advance to the conference finals. The task wouldn’t be easy as they had to take on the defending NHL Champion Los Angeles Kings. That series ended in 5 games setting up a series with the Bruins, the first time since 1979 that two original six teams would face off in the Stanley Cup Finals. Up 3-2 in the series the Hawks saw themselves trailing the Bruins in game six 2-1 with under a minute to go. The T.D. Garden was rocking and the fans were anticipating a game seven. The Hawks had other plans by doing the unthinkable, scoring two goals in 17 seconds to win their fifth Stanley Cup.
Chicago had to deal with some adversity halfway through the 2015 season when Patrick Kane would be sidelined for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. They would go on to finish 3rd in their division and clinched another playoff spot. The Predators were the Hawks first round victim losing in 6 games, followed by a sweep of Minnesota in the second round, resulting in the Hawks reaching the conference finals for the fifth time in seven years. The Western Conference finals featured a young Anaheim Ducks squad that had home ice. In an entertaining series that went back and forth, each team tying the series when one team was up, it took a game seven to determine a winner. After the puck drop the Ducks came out determined to score but couldn’t get anything past goalie Corey Crawford. Toews put up two goals nine minutes apart in the first period that sucked the air out of the Honda Center. Chicago went on to win 5-3 and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. On the other side of the Faceoff circle were the Tampa Bay Lightning who became the first expansion team to beat three original six teams in every round of the playoffs. The first five games were decided by one goal with the advantage going to the Hawks, leading the series 3-2 going into game 6. In another tightly contested game it until second period when Duncan Keith ripped a shot past Ben Bishop to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead. Patrick Kane got an insurance goal and the United Center was rocking as the Hawks went on to win their sixth cup and first one on home ice since 1938.
The Blackhawks home arena, The United Center, that now has 6 Stanley Cup banners is one of the toughest and loudest arenas to play in. The 3rd biggest arena with a capacity of 19,717 has seen the playoffs every year since 2008, and has lead the NHL in attendance since that same year. “Chelsea Dagger” blares over the P.A. system every time the Hawks score, and the team’s great play and the home ice has celebrities such as Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Bill Murray and Mr. “T” attending the games.
It looks like the United Center will continue to be the Mecca of the NHL world as this Blackhawks team is so young and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Free agents chomp at the bit to play for them, and with Toews and Kane already in the mix they are a force to be reckoned with league wide. Love them or hate them you have to respect them for what they have achieved in a short time, and the other 29 teams should take a page out of their notebook because the Hawks are a model organization for the league. The skys the limit with this team and as long as they can keep their stars signed and stay under the salary cap I don’t see anyone dethroning this dynasty.