From ancient grudge break to new mutiny: The Blackhawks' rise to relevance makes an Original Six rivalry interesting again.
I am as proud as any four-feathered fan to have watched the 2010 championship banner raised in October. But toward the end of that game, which our Hawks lost, that three-syllable, two-word chant to the tune of "Let's Go Hawks!" emerged.
The dawn of my commitment to the Indian was back in the 1980s, listening to Pat Foley on WBBM long after my third-grade bedtime. Back then, there was truth in cadence—Detroit was the Dead Things. Even their fans said so. But it never changed the fact that the games were physical and entertaining, much-anticipated and hard fought.
The din over Wayne Messmer's rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner would be a little louder than usual. Probert would drop the gloves and dance with Secord. Savard would do a pretty waltz and light the lamp. And while the Blackhawks were in the midst of a 27-season long streak of consecutive playoff appearances, those teams—with Bannerman in goal, Larmer and Savard up front and Wilson on the blue line—were the typical Chicago team of good-but-not-quite-good-enough when Edmonton came to town in May. They were then the bridesmaid to Calgary, won the President's Trophy only to be bounced by Minnesota and then steamrolled their way to a steamrolling by Pittsburgh in '92.
It was all downhill from there. The next decade and a half, the tables turned. Detroit became the preeminent dynasty of the NHL and in the twilight of Dollar Bill's regime, the Blackhawks fortunes crumbled. Franchise players left as free agents with hard feelings. Fans threw their hands up in disgust. The roar was hard to remember.
Our despise for the winged wheel is encoded in our war-painted DNA. It is an ancient grudge and one of the best rivalries in sports. But with this new mutiny of our Hawks' rebirth, the old cheer does not apply. The goal horn sounds a little brighter against Detroit. A two-minute minor to Tomas Holmstrom for goaltender interference is a little sweeter. Getting past Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Lidstrom is no small feat and we relish the success of our Hawks a little more against Detroit than the other 28 teams in the league. A win is worth only two points in the standings, but three in our hearts.
Anti- is a distinctly American sentiment, but our ideologies should not lie in what we are against, they should be defined by what we are for. While we reward a team that performs well with our thunderous approval, that in and of itself is condemning the opposition. Our foremost bonds are to the great game of hockey and the proud Indian head we wear, not over the ridicule of our foe. We are pro-Blackhawks first and anti-Detroit distantly second.
In our joy that reverberated throughout the city and beyond on that glorious night in June, that stupid, ugly, unnecessary cheer rang out on Division Street. Not "Let's Go Hawks." Not "Thank you, Rock," or any other tritone truisms. The Red Wings, with their four Stanley Cup rings in the last decade and a half were too busy playing golf in Bloomfield Hills and marrying supermodels in Sweden to care what drunken, idiotic Chicagoans were saying about their team on a night that should have been solely celebratory of our Hawks renaissance.
Dear fellow faithful, I beg of you to stop. We are better than this. The Blackhawks are better than this. And the Red Wings are better than this.
Detroit does not suck, but it does not mean we should hate them any less.