In 17 seconds, the Blackhawks went from gearing up for a game 7 to Stanley Cup Champions. It took a mere 17 seconds for hockey diehards and bandwagon jumpers to erupt in collective celebration and spontaneously ignite hundreds of parties and fireworks throughout Chicagoland.
The city affinity with the Blackhawks, which first materialized in the 2010 Cup run, has reached an unprecedented level. As every Chicagoan has experienced in the last few weeks, the Hawks are talk of a town where not too long ago, hockey was hidden deeply in the pages of the sports section and out of mind of the average Chicago sports fan. With the team’s second title in four season, the Hawks have captivated the hearts and attention of a city and its millions of citizens. In just four years, the Blackhawks have exploded onto the psyche of every sports fan and casual observer in Chicago, and have become Chicago’s most successful team since Michael Jordan’s Bulls.
Everywhere and anywhere in Chicagoland, one can see Hawks shirts and Patrick Kane sweaters. The Indianhead has become as ubiquitous in Chicago sports culture as the Bears’ ‘C’ or Wrigley Field’s ivy. Take a drive down one of this city’s major streets — Madison, Division, Clark — and you will see a bar advertising the showing of a Hawks game or a Hawks-related drink special. Check out the United Center where one can see the Michael Jordan statue sporting Blackhawk red. Go to any mall or theater in the suburbs and one will see the names Toews, Hossa and Sharp etched onto fans’ backs. The love affair the city has with its 2013 Stanley Cup winners is positively obsessive, and rivals that of its relationship to any of its other four major sports franchises.
The Blackhawks’ playoff run and rise from Chicago sports purgatory to the NHL’s model franchise parallels the determined, fighting spirit Chicagoans embody. The team, like the residents of its city, battled back from every deficit and against every obstacle. The Hawks responded to every challenge, from a 3-1 deficit to Detroit to a hot goaltender in Jonathan Quick to a tough, physical Bruins team with as much determination as Chicagoans. In a city comprised of tough, hard-working, determined people, the Blackhawks are a reflection of what makes this city by the lake so resilient. The Hawks approached the 2013 season with speed, toughness and valiance much as Chicago’s residents do day in and day out.
Chicago has gone through a great deal of turmoil in the world of sports and other, more pressing civic issues. City sports fans have had to deal with the ACL injury to Derrick Rose, a collapse by the Bears, and dismal seasons by the Cubs and White Sox. Those events pale in comparison to the civic issues many Chicagoans have gone through such as a contentious CPS teachers’ strike, a debate to close 50 schools and a persistence of violence on Chicago’s streets. While these issues and events have left many bitter and divided, the will of the city is sure to be strengthened by tackling them head on much in manner all the Blackhawks players, coaches and the front office did during the playoffs and over last eight years.
During the Blackhawks victory parade and rally, Chicago will get to see their hockey idols celebrate in the streets and finally see the level to which Chicagoans embrace their Hawks. It will be a cathartic release of the excitement made possible by Monday night’s comeback for the ages and the city’s realization that the Blackhawks have a special future in the works.
Thanks for a memorable season, Hawks! The city owes you one.
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