Chicago Blackhawks: A Little Hope For The Long-Suffering

Charlie DanoffCorrespondent IMarch 23, 2008

One of the NHL's vanguard Original Six teams, the Chicago Blackhawks, are one of the classiest and most respected franchises in professional sports.  The story of their rich tradition begins rooted, as do all good tales, in mystery involving war, money and spelling.  Starting with the sexiest angle, the spelling, their name for most of their existence was "Black Hawks."

That was until 1986, when someone - most likely an underpaid, underappreciated intern - was rifling through old documents and discovered the team's original NHL contract.  After buying the Portland Rosebuds of the recently defunct Western Hockey League the Harvard educated local coffee baron Major Fredric McLaughlin changed the name for Chicago's new team to the Blackhawks.  Somewhere along the way the compound spelling was lost, but the late Bill Wirtz returned the name to its original nature after discovering the error.    

So who exactly was the Major trying to honor with the name?  Well that's where the plot thickens. 

So far, there are three main hypotheses:

1)  Black Hawk, American Indian Warrior Legend, who is also the only single person to have an American war named after them: the 1832 Black Hawk War; and then don't forget about those helicopters.

3)  A early 20th century Chicago restaurant named "The Blackhawk."

Personally, because I think racism is nothing more than sissy liberal hogwash, I really hope the true answer is the restaurant.

Nevertheless, regardless of the team name itself, there is no doubt the team's logo was penned in homage of the man, who in the War of 1812 fought as a British ally against the Americans.  Designed by the owner's wife, Irene Castle McLuaghlin, the tomato red, white, black, green, orange, yellow and blue symbol it is the centerpiece of undeniably the best jersey in the history of mankind.

Thirty-three players enshrined forever at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto have had the honor of donning the sacred garment.  Since inception, the Hawks have been collecting hardware like carpenters: winning a combined forty Hart, Art Ross, Norris, Calder and Vezina Trophies.  Arguably their most legendary stretch came in the four seasons from 1965 to 1968.  Each year, the Art Ross and Hart trophies went to Hawk sensations Stan Mikita or Bobby Hull who scored more often than Wilt Chamberlain.

The only blemish on their otherwise perfect history is their lack of Stanley Cups.  The franchise owns three carvings onto the silver side of the greatest trophy in sports, but none since 1961.

Enter the newest characters in our little drama: the 2007-2008 Chicago Blackhawks.  With dreams of future glory and a return to their rightful position atop the league weighing heavily on the young shoulders of the reincarnated spirits of Mikita and Hull: Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Not having appeared in the playoffs in seemingly eons (2001-02), little was expected of this year's squad.  Sure, high draft picks are nice, but rookies usually take years before they can consistently contribute to NHL clubs.  Recently acquired high priced starts with salaries $6 million or more have largely been busts.

Nikolai Khabibulin's been a shell of his former Stanley Cup winning self (I blame giving up camel killers).  Since being acquired for home grown local favorite Mark Bell, Marian Havlat has played well for Chicago, averaging .92 points per game.  The problem's been he hasn't suited up too often, missing 26 games last year and making only 35 in the current season, and recently going under the knife.

Yet, despite getting worse returns on their assets than Bear Sterns investors, the Hawks came out sizzling more than a Ruth Chris steak to start the season, winning 14 of their first 24 games.  That may not seem like much, but for a depressed sports town and a team that hasn't been even .500 in five years, it was more exciting than if the Rapture came early.

Read the rest at Screaming Sports