Chicago Blackhawks end 49-year Stanley Cup Championship drought with 4-3 OT win over Philly, in a class by themselves in 2009-10

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Friday, June 11, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

NHL Stanley Cup Finals Patrick Kane goal Michael Leighton NBC

The best team in the NHL won the most coveted championship trophy in all of sports. After fighting off a late Philadelphia comeback in regulation, Patrick Kane beat Kimmo Timonen along the boards and flicked a seeing eye wrist shot that iced a 4-3 overtime win. The Chicago Blackhawks can shake off five unsuccessful trips to the Finals (62, 65, 71, 73, 92) since their last Stanley Cup Championship in 1961, and they can take pride in completing the rejuvination of an orignial six hockey market that had fallen on tough times in recent years.

Gone are the half empty buildings, and local television and media battles that enveloped late owner Bill Wirtz. After his son Rocky Wirtz took the reigns, he established not only a link with the team’s past, but also a link to the heart of the city, and a link to the heart of the sport. It became fun to reminisce about past greats Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, and for a younger generation to think back to powerhouse early 90′s teams that included Jeremy Roenick, Chris Chelios and Ed Belfour. The conversations carried on from the concourse of the United Center, to radio and television, and on the internet to create a surge of interest in the team locally and nationally.

21-year old Patrick Kane, 22-year old captain Jonathan Toews, 25-year old behemoth Dustin Byfuglien and rookie but not technically a rookie netminder Antti Niemi have created their own legacy. In a solid sports town, they can stand alongside the Superbowl shuffling Chicago Bears. They can’t match the duration but they can match the passion of the championship winning Chicago Bulls, and with his airness Michael Jordon in attendance offering his support. A little of the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field cool can also now bleed over to the Blackhawks.

The diehard fans who supported the team through the lean times deserve recognition, but there were a number of casual fans and non-sports fans alike that picked up interest and followed the playoff run along the way. It was a fun ride. A few members of the Blackhawks may have started the Championship celebration a year or two before winning a Stanley Cup, but they earned a “talk to the ring” rebuke for future detractors. The franchise faces difficult offseason decisions with over $57M locked up to 14 roster players, but you have to take chances to win a Cup. Misson accomplished.

The flamboyant Kane lead the team in scoring during the regular season, and he capped the postseason with his first game winning goal of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was an awkward game winning moment with both NBC and CBC broadcasts of the game missing a clear call of the play. As Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton tried to seal the post, Kane’s hard angle shot slid through 5-hole and lodged hidden from view under the side of the net. NBC’s Mike Emrick paused, noted the fact there was no goal light or goal call from the official, then added “What Chaos”. On CBC, Jim Hughson exclaimed “Where is the puck?” while Kane sped down the ice and jumped into the arms of Antti Niemi.

The play went to review, excuse Buffalo Sabres fans for throwing up a little bit after Brett Hull’s foot-in-the crease effort, but it was an easy call to make. It was ruled a goal, and the Blackhawks began their celebration in earnest. After his gold medal performance in the 2010 Olympics, and his Conn Smythe Playoff MVP winning performance against the Philadelphia Flyers, speculation about the future impact of the Blackhawks and their young captain Jonathan Toews has been off the charts.

Toews took his moment raising the cup, and then looked for teammate Marian Hossa. Hossa was appearing in his third straight Stanley Cup Final with his third different NHL team. The Czech native, and original Ottawa Senators draft pick in 1997 (Thornton 1st, Marleau 2nd, Hossa 12th) had to endure withering criticism and incessant talk of a “Hossa curse” after two unsuccessful Cup appearances. After signing a 12-year, $62.8M contract, Hossa lit the lamp only 3 times in the playoffs. Instead of circling the wagons from pressure and criticism, he made an impact in other areas of the game. He was focused and aggressive defensively. He used his size and speed for monster puck possession shifts that created time and scoring chances for linemates. It looked like Marian Hossa went through a flood of different emotions as he raised the Cup for the first time.

“When we got to the Final again, I was so happy to be in the Final but at the same time it was scary,” Marian Hossa told reporters after the game. “I’m so glad. I won it. I got the Stanley Cup. What a feeling. Wow. This is unbelievable.”

The Blackhawks definitely won on enemy territory. There was a reason this blog wrote that the biggest addition of the 2009 offseason was the departure of Chris Pronger from the Western Conference. His level of intensity, ill-temper and near constant borderline illegality makes standing in front of the goal crease a gamble in faith. That being said, Flyers fans offer their own intimidating presence. A sea of orange inside the Wachovia Center rained down boo’s on the Cup celebration, the Conn Smythe presentation, the Stanley Cup celebration, the team photo, and several subsequent interviews. It was not disrespectful in the slightest, in fact it was a measure of respect. If fans in Philly hate you that much, you are doing something right.

Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks, 2009-10 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff champions.

[Update] Longest Stanley Cup Droughts – Sports Illustrated photo gallery.

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