The journey from obscurity to ultimate victory ended last night for the Chicago Blackhawks.
The 49 years of poor ownership, lack of funding, and a succession of failures, gone...
Welcome back to the promised land.
The Stanley Cup Finals between Chicago and the Philadelphia Flyers did not disappoint. Just look at the television ratings (oh, they were only the highest rated finals in 36 years). That is a testament to the two fan bases driving home how badly they wanted the cup. Philly fans were hoping for an end to their own 34- (now 35) year drought, so it figured that the Flyer market had their eyes peeled for every game.
The series as a whole also proved that defense does not win championships, but timely defense never hurts. Take the third period of Game 6. The Blackhawks had a one-goal lead and eventually sat back in a defensive mode, which led to Scott Hartnell's game-tying goal.
With one minute and change left in the same period, Antti Niemi made the save of the game on Jeff Carter just in front of the goalie crease. He let one in for the tie, but not the game winner when it truly mattered.
This is just one of many things that stood out looking back at this gut-wrenching series.
If you make Pronger work, he is not the brick wall he portrays.
Just look at games five and six. Whether it was Big Buff lighting him up on the boards, or any number of Hawks skill players taking him off the crease and making him skate, it rattled him. Pronger proved to be vital and the cornerstone of the Flyers this season, but when your cornerstone cannot answer every attack placed in front of him, well...you saw what happened.
Regardless, Pronger was a main cog and a game changer in this series for most of it.
Coaching is important in hockey.
Some sports get by on pure talent or letting a number of guys lead the way (NBA), but if coaches Joel Quenneville and Peter Laviolette had not made changes, this series could have been a blowout in either direction.
There is no such thing as a Marian Hossa "curse."
If he was cursed, the Blackhawks would have lost. If you want curses, see the Chicago Cubs.
It needs to be noted that the puck going off of Hossa's skate to Hartnell's stick scared the entire Blackhawks nation into thinking it might be real.
The Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in sports.
It's true, and if you want to argue this point, you will lose. Four series of ups and downs, 100 percent energy into every play, fighting, bleeding, tooth-reducing, and amazing plays makes lifting the 35 pound Stanley Cup all the more worthwhile.
49 years is a long time.
With all due respect to the Cubs, this streak was long overdue to end this season with this talent. My dad was blessed to watch the 1961 champion Blackhawks, but, being an adult, it obviously wasn't the same then as it is now. Plus, he spent 23 of those years grooming me into the hockey die-hard fan I am today. I always promised myself when the drought ended, I would be there to share it with him.
For hockey, Philadelphia and Toronto need to win, too. Those droughts hurt the sport, especially with the hallowed Hockey Hall of Fame in downtown Toronto—just don't win against the Hawks.
The celebratory parade is tomorrow morning in the heart of the Windy City. I will be there to capture and savor the moments in person and forever on camera. I will put together a slideshow not too long after. Enjoy this moment, Chicago. You earned it, and so did everyone and everything that has made the "Madhouse on Madison" what it is today.