While this may not be recognized yet, this era of Blackhawks hockey will be remembered with reverence in Chicago for the rest of our lives. For the rest of their lives, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook, and many of their teammates will fulfill the cliché of never having to pay for drinks. They’ll get paid to show their faces and glad-hand on behalf of brands until the end of their times — and deservedly so.
I’ll confess to not having enough knowledge of the inner workings of hockey to even begin to formulate a strong take on why the Blackhawks have been so good. My eyes tell me that Toews is clutch and Kane has the type of quickness, on ice, that’s akin to a Stephen Curry crossover or Russell Wilson stutter step — where they all just see the game in slow motion compared to their competition — but there’s nothing in the game’s strategy that stands out to me. It just seems like it’s all an unquantifiable combination of skill and will and luck. How do you coach that?
What I do think I know is that the Blackhawks are the second most relevant team to the Bears in Chicago, where I live. They’re a distant second, to be sure, but in terms of ticket prices and the amount of people I see on the streets wearing apparel they are ahead of the Bulls and Cubs (and obviously the White Sox). This is easy for Chicago to do when the team wins two Stanley Cups and reaches a third in a six-year stretch — a monumental achievement with the NHL’s salary cap — but it also feels like a more permanent development than can be explained by pinning it on bandwagoners.
Blackhawks fans can conveniently rationalize that they were turned off by the odious ownership of Bill Wirtz, who presided over the team for more than 40 years, and blacked home games out from television. His son Rocky is the functional opposite of nepotistic dunces like Jim Buss or Jim Dolan, and has run every aspect of the team in a manner that maximizes civic engagement. That this has, most importantly, coincided with a period of great winning is advantageous goes without saying.
In the end, all these players deserve deserve the lion’s share of the credit. They are the ones who are out there and playing through God-knows-what afflictions, and it’s them who will be myth-made to fans’ children and grandchildren as the present seeps into nostalgia. In this cycle, they’ll the be keynote speakers at charity dinners, appear in ads for liquor stores and car dealerships, throw out first pitches, become studio commentators, and sign untold amounts of autographs. Whatever happens from here on out, they’ll be this generation’s ’85 Bears.
Near or distant, though, all of this is in the future. Nobody would confess to being satisfied with that the Blackhawks have already accomplished, and the Stanley Cup Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning are in between them and another notch towards transcendence. While I could not possibly purport to predict what will happen, it should be quite an entertaining series.