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
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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

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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.

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Chicago 17 FINAL
Detroit 34
Philadelphia 33 FINAL
Dallas 10
Seattle 16 3rd Qtr 8:05
San Francisco 0
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
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St. Louis
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Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Edmonton 0 3rd Prd 4:13
Nashville 0
ULM 54 FINAL
Robert Morris 71
Santa Clara 57 FINAL
Tennessee 64
Oklahoma 59 FINAL
Butler 46
Austin Peay 79 FINAL
Brown 58
Princeton 56 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 62
Coastal Carolina 67 FINAL
Chattanooga 78
Kansas 76 FINAL
Rhode Island 60
Wisconsin 68 FINAL
Georgetown 65
FIU 53 FINAL
USC Upstate 68
Long Island 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 73
San Diego 71 FINAL
Xavier 82
Illinois 88 FINAL
Indiana State 62
Cal State Fullerton 67 FINAL
Wright State 62
Western Ky 62 FINAL
Saint Josephs 59
Michigan State 77 FINAL
Rider 45
UCLA 56 FINAL
North Carolina 78
Long Beach State 59 2nd Half 3:17
Western Mich 51
Marquette 49 2nd Half 8:49
Georgia Tech 47
Stephen F Austin 37 2nd Half 16:58
Prairie View 28
UAB 22 2nd Half
Florida 27
Rice 28 2nd Half
Mercer 33
San Jose St 10:00 PM
Washington
Washington St 10:59 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Baylor 10:59 PM
Memphis
LSU 20 4th Qtr 10:30
Texas A&M 10
(6) TCU 27 4th Qtr 14:04
Texas 10
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
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(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
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Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
UCF 12/4/14 6:30 PM
East Carolina
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Hartford 43 FINAL
Furman 53
Clemson 77 FINAL
Ohio State 86
Idaho State 53 FINAL
San Diego State 68
East Carolina 58 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 69
Santa Clara 0 Cancelled
Texas-El Paso 0
Florida State 68 FINAL
Washington 80
Wichita State 39 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 56
Wisconsin 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 67
Kansas State 0 Cancelled
LSU 0
BYU 73 FINAL
BYU-Hawaii 52
Charlotte 58 FINAL
Montana 67
Illinois 77 FINAL
(9) Kentucky 71
Central Michigan 61 FINAL
Richmond 56
Oklahoma 65 2nd Half 1:29
South Florida 82
Princeton 67 2nd Half 1:21
Wake Forest 50
(19) Oregon State 85 FINAL
Butler 53
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