One City, One Goal - Sudden Death = Stanley Cup
Wednesday, June 9, 2010, will live long in the hearts and minds of Chicagoans for it was one of those "Thrill of Victory" moments that you experience (well, as a fan) very rarely in life. The 1985 Chicago Bears team brought the city a long awaited Super Bowl victory, the Chicago Bulls won a series of NBA Final championships in the 1990's; and my beloved Chicago White Sox took the World Series in 2005. Now this. The Stanley Cup comes back to Chicago.
I grew up watching ABC's Wide World of Sports and still vividly recall their open. The open featured ski jumper, Vinko Bogataj taking a death defying fall that inspired the line "the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat." They'd play that 1970 ski jump over and over and over again. Poor guy. By the way, he survived that fall. The front end of the quote was what many Chicago Blackhawk fans are feeling today. Sports is a feeling. We have the simple joy of knowing that our team won. Willy Wonka's one nasty moment (although, it was all an act) came when he said, "you get nothing, you lose" and for a brief period of time you are thinking that's going to be the fate of our team and then the positive and optimistic fan wakes up and says, "Hawks win, Hawks win!"
Last night's victory in the city of brotherly love (too bad it didn't happen on home ice, but you just want them to win, so you get over home ice in one one-hundredth of a second) was glorious. The Blackhawks did excruciating things to win Lord Stanley's Cup, but even after securing scars that will never completely heal, teeth that will never come back and damage that they will only encounter in some of their later years the Hawks played superbly, but so did the Philadelphia Flyers. I respect this sport. The players have to go backwards, forwards, sideways at 30 miles per hour. The Cup is flying at 150 miles per hour. The players crash up against glass, fall on hard ice, have ice shot up to their faces, sticks are breaking their noses. They carry heavy loads of uniform and equipment. It's a physical game and they have to manage perfect hand/eye coordination while watching for everyone else's hand/eye coordination. It's a legitimate team sport.
It took two generations to get the Cup back to Chicago. (a generation is technically 25 years). Even though the Blackhawks are one of the original six NHL teams they had not managed a Stanley Cup Final victory since 1961. That's 49 years ago. John F. Kennedy was President and still alive. U. S. Troops had yet to take off for the jungles of Vietnam. The Beatles were still playing dumps in Hamburg. No one in the Western World knew what a jihad was. Ronald Reagan was still an actor. Not a soul had a PC or Mac. There were no iPods, iPads or cell phones. Oil spills didn't cause world ending style ecological breakdowns. ..., but the iconic Bobby Hull was the "golden jet" of the then winning Blackhawks!
Literally just a few years ago there were on average some 9,000 fans watching the Hawks in their stadium. They almost didn't have a television contract. They came close to not having a radio contract. How do you get fans to watch your sport if you can't see or hear them? You don't. Bring in a genius front office that knows how to pick players and then bring in a downright brilliant Marketing team (rarely use the word brilliant, but it applies here) and you can have a victory that is monumental.
I grew up in a family that loved sports, particularly loved the Bears, the Blackhawks and mostly the White Sox. When you have a dad who loves the games and then you have brothers that almost one-up the dad in their love for the games you kind of go along for the ride. "Here Come The Hawks" was written back in 1968 and I still love it. I've downloaded it and of course, it still sounds great even though it is basically a Lawrence Welk construct of a song. Dick Marx (the Richard Marx's father) arranged, produced and conducted that piece of music and it is more than nostalgia. The Blackhawks are mighty!
Theologically, I know this holds no merit, but there is a part of me that would like to think that my dad and my eldest brother know what happened last night and maybe they are breaking some bread with some one-time literal Blackhawks! My dad loved Native American culture (he could pretty much name any tribe and all of their chiefs), so the odds are if this were a scriptural reality of heaven he'd be looking to celebrate with some real Blackhawks! I digress.
Jonathan Toews (the youngest captain in the NHL) is an admirable 22 year old. His emotional maturity through this season has been mind-boggling. If you want the average 22 year old you won't find him playing in the NHL (well, maybe Patrick Kane). These guys don't just play. They sacrifice. Literally sacrifice - teeth, skin and a stress-free life.
3:55am on Thursday, June 10, the Chicago Blackhawks landed at O'Hare International Airport. The Chicago Fire Department met them with a salute that featured an archway of water. Thank God, it's lovely out or they would have had to skate off of the plane (water turning to ice). Of course, these guys would have done it. They're like mountain men and some of them looked like mountain men throughout the playoffs (don't shave as a mantra - you have to love this sport).
Duncan Keith lost his teeth, but this year he gained a Gold Medal (playing for Canada) and a Stanley Cup victory. I understand he is also gaining a wife in a few months. I love this guy, in spite of the fact that I'm old enough to be his mother!
Tomorrow morning there will be the celebratory and obligatory ticker tape parade throughout the streets of the beautiful city of Chicago! Mayor Daley will be there enjoying the victory lap with our new heroes.
I must admit, my emotional ties to the Chicago White Sox World Series victory (in 2005) is still the single most fantastic moment (outside of all personal experiences) in life, but this Stanley cup win is pretty darn cool!
At least for a brief period of time it is one city, one goal. It was all about that one goal. A goal that no one really saw except Kane and the Christian Bale look-a-like, Patrick Sharp. Didn't matter, Kane took a shot and got that one game winning goal. Last night he pointed out that "this is something I dreamed of as a little boy - to have the winning goal in a Stanley Cup Final." Good for him. Good for us.
Sudden death (who knew sudden death would be so fabulous) does indeed equal victory. In this case, sudden death equals the Stanley Cup. Once the parade ends we will get back to doing other things, but for a few days we will all fall under the spell of the thrill of victory. It's a victory that Vinko Bogataj didn't know back on a snowy day in 1970. Oh, and that happened some nine years after the last Stanley Cup win! Go Hawks, the mighty Blackhawks!