Column: Stanley Cup back in city of big shoulders and short memories. And the bad old days?

  • Article by: JIM LITKE , AP Sports Columnist
  • Updated: June 25, 2013 - 11:03 AM
hide

The Chicago Blackhawks celebrate their 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals, Monday, June 24, 2013, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Photo: Charles Krupa, ASSOCIATED PRESS

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The Stanley Cup is back in the city of big shoulders and short memories, delivered by a Chicago team that featured neither.

The Blackhawks started the lockout-shortened NHL season so fast, they were the team to beat for months. But they still couldn't outmuscle anybody. They were all about speed and skill, advantages that get squeezed tighter, round by round, in the defensive vise of the postseason.

They had to find another way to play with 1:30 left Monday night in Boston, when goalie Corey Crawford headed for the bench to bring on another attacker. Turns out the Blackhawks do desperation well, too.

"That's kind of the way you had to score this whole series," coach Joel Quenneville said after Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland banged in a pair of gritty goals during a 17-second span to stun the Bruins.

Yet even after Bolland's putback of a rebound — off the goal post, no less — slipped by sprawling Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, there were still 59 seconds left on the clock.

"An eternity," Patrick Kane, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, called it.

"Nerve-wracking," captain Jonathan Toews added.

"Things were happening so fast," recalled winger Patrick Sharp, "I looked up at the clock and knew it was going to be the longest minute of the season."

Better a minute like that one than all the minutes Blackhawks fans ignored just five short years ago. It wasn't that long, after all, that the current toast of the town was just toast.

Toews, 25, and Kane, 24, came along in 2006 and 2007, when the Blackhawks were already beginning their bounce back from the bottom. Just a few years before that, the Blackhawks were roundly derided as the worst franchise in pro sports. At 32, Sharp is one of the longest-serving veterans of the team's core. He's made it a point not to let anybody in the locker room forget that.

After Chicago's 3-1 victory in Game 5, Sharp sat at his cubicle exhausted and stories rolled out about the bad old days.

"We'd get, maybe 10,000 fans, and in our building that felt like empty. I could pick friends of mine out in the crowd. Some nights, they'd have their own section," he laughed.

"We used to have business cards with a website address and we'd tell people, 'Go there and you'd get two free tickets.' People wouldn't even take the cards!"

The 2004-05 lockout hurt hockey, but the rule changes that opened up the game helped the Hawks.

Then-general manager Dale Tallon finally quit pursuing draft picks and free agents with wide bodies and narrow skill sets. Suddenly, guys like Sharp and slick-passing defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook had targets up ice with the imagination and ability to finish plays.

Except at first, nobody noticed. A decade or so of continuing futility — in a city where the gold standard is the Cubs at a century and counting — kept all but the hardcore fans away.

Tight-fisted owner William "Dollar Bill" Wirtz stubbornly kept games off TV, and drove off legacy names like Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita. Then Wirtz died in September 2007 following a brief battle with cancer and the bitterness spilled out in one sweeping gesture.

During a moment of silence for Wirtz at the home opener, the crowd responded with boos. The Hawks made the postseason after a six-season hiatus, but those fans who chose self-exile only grudgingly began trickling back. It wasn't until Wirtz' son, Rocky, was in control for a full season — putting the games back on TV, bringing guys like Hull and Mikita back as ambassadors and putting up statues outside the United Center — that all was forgiven, and then some.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Texas - WP: N. Martinez 7 FINAL
Oakland - LP: S. Gray 2
Boston - LP: B. Workman 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: G. Cole 3
Toronto - LP: A. Sanchez 2 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: D. Robertson 3
Washington - WP: G. Gonzalez 6 FINAL
Miami - LP: B. Hand 2
Los Angeles 1 Bottom 6th Inning
Chicago Cubs 4
Cleveland 0 Bottom 8th Inning
Houston 1
Milwaukee 2 Bottom 8th Inning
St. Louis 0
Arizona 6 Bottom 6th Inning
Colorado 1
Philadelphia 1 Top 5th Inning
San Diego 2
Seattle 0 Top 2nd Inning
LA Angels 0
Tampa Bay 0 3rd Qtr 13:00
Atlanta 35
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 20 4th Qtr 6:28
(20) Kansas State 7
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close