The Chicago Blackhawks entered the NHL in 1926, just two years after the Boston Bruins. The Blackhawks have won the cup four times during their 87 years in the NHL; 1933-34, 1937-38, 1960-61, and 2009-10.
Although the Blackhawks and their fans now see themselves as a storied franchise with solid ownership, that has not always been the case. Former Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz drove fans of the Hawks away from the game and their now beloved team.
While Blackhawks fans will now claim they are one of the strongest fanbases in the NHL, it was not long ago that this original six franchise was losing money to operate and had nearly the lowest attendance in the NHL.
Wirtz’s reputation was one of the worst in the NHL. He was known as the owner who wouldn’t spend the money and wouldn’t care what anyone else had to say. Keeping games off of television, taxed with the blame for letting Bobby Hull walk, losing Ed Belfour and Dominik Hasek, trading Chris Chelios, trading Jeremy Roenick, trading Phil Esposito, and earning ESPN’s award for the worst franchise in sports in 2004.
A lot has changed since his son took over the franchise, but it is truly fascinating to see just how quickly Blackhawk fans have forgotten their storied past.
While the franchise seems to have made a huge turnaround in the past five years, the Stanley Cup Championship of 2010 is now in the past and the present team has to prove themselves.
The Hawks faced a team with an injured starting goaltender, a team that wasn’t supposed to be in the playoffs (and nearly lost), and a team that had run out of gas after narrowly beating two difficult competitors.
Now the Blackhawks will have to take on a team with their own problems, but a team that has proven themselves worthy.
After sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Bruins look unbeatable. The same cannot be said for the Hawks.
While many analysts will point to their incredible run this season, the Blackhawks now have to prove that they can defeat an opponent from the East.
I will admit, I did not think that this Hawks team would be able to overcome the adversity that it has in the playoffs, and they have earned their spot in the Stanley Cup Finals. After coming back to beat the Red Wings while being down three games to one, I think that this Hawks team has just as good of a chance of beating the Bruins as the Bruins do of beating the Hawks.
The truth about the Blackhawks though lies deeper than who lifts the cup, or what happens this season. The truth about the fans in Chicago is that they love their team when it wins. They love their team as long as the team does what they think is right. They are not real hockey fans but Blackhawks fans.
You might believe that Hawks fans should be praised for coming back to the game, and you would be right to do so. The turnaround is incredible, but the truth still lies underneath. All it takes is one disliked owner to turn a city away.
Tonight the Stanley Cup Finals begin in Chicago, but keep in mind that less than ten years ago this was named the worst franchise in sports.
Stay tuned to Bleedin’ Blue for reactions to the Cup Finals and other NHL news and check out my take on the Boston Bruins as well.
LET’S GO BLUES!