Okay, Okay, I know. This is a Cubs blog, but as a sports fan, as a Chicago fan, I HAVE to write about the historical run many of us just witnessed in the Blackhawks hockey team going 24 straight games without a regulation loss. (If we go back to last season, it was a 30 game streak, which is absolutely insane!) The magical journey came to a screeching halt tonight when Colorado, well, to put it bluntly, handed their asses to them on a silver platter. The Avalanche beat the Blackhawks 6-2. It was a somewhat bitter way to start the 2nd half of the shortened season. Instead of being sad or upset about the loss, I tip my cap, and am almost happy they finally lost (more on that in just a bit)…
Many of my friends who are into sports could care less about hockey. To be honest, up until Rocky Wirtz took over the team after his father passed, I didn’t either. His dad, Bill Wirtz, was very very frugal with his money and spending to expand the fan base was not something he would even consider, even after many tried to get him to do so. Because of that, he was not willing to get his Blackhawks on TV, even for home games. So, unless you were a season ticket holder, not many people attended the games. The Blackhawks were a small line score on the third page of the sports section of the bigger newspapers. Bill Wirtz passed away on September 26, 2007. Rocky took over the team and almost IMMEDIATELY changed a lot of the mindset of the organization. He was one who believed in spending money to make money. One of the things he changed was putting the Blackhawks on TV for home games. A whole new market expanded for the team. He hired John McDonough, who had been with the Cubs, to be the new team president. It was because of these moves, the Blackhawks became more of a common name in the Chicago sports fanbase. There were faces to go with the names. There was meaning behind the linescores in the paper. These moves proved to be profitable as in the 2008-09 season, the team had one of the highest attendance numbers in the NHL! Just a year before, the United Center was virtually empty for the home games. Then, in 2010, the Blackhawks won the “World Series” of hockey, The Stanley Cup. Names such as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews (pronounced TAVES), and Patrick Sharp became just as popular among many Chicago sports fans as Brian Urlacher, Paul Konerko, and Alfonso Soriano had already been. In three years, Rocky Wirtz turned this organization completely upside down and inside out and put butts in the seats every night they played.
At the beginning of the season, fans of the game weren’t even sure if there would be a season. There was a lockout due to the players and owners not being able to come to agreements on the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The lockout began on September 15, 2012 and finally ended on January 6, 2013, well into what should have been the season, which was supposed to have started on October 11, 2012. In the final hours before the season would have been canceled, an agreement was made and it was determined that the season would be a shortened season of only 48 games, instead of 82. I can’t imagine missing out on what we have been watching with this team had the agreement not been made. I’ve heard some that are upset that the lockout has robbed us of many more magical Blackhawks moments due to the way they are playing, but I really think the lockout HELPED them and because of it we are seeing this amazing team on the ice doing things that are sometimes just jaw dropping. Many of the players went to Europe to play to keep in shape and keep their game sharp. Some of them used the time to completely recover from some pretty major injuries that were suffered last year. They started the shortened season with a completely healthy Toews and Hossa. Kane seemed to “grow up” overseas and came over not only a better player, but a more mature player.
This 24 game streak was so amazing, even “King James” (Lebron James) sent out an encouraging tweet on Sunday:
In a time when football is over, baseball is just starting up and not really a whole lot to talk about (unless you are one that is following the WBC), and basketball…well, is basketball, the streak was big news in sports. National media (and not just sports journalism) had picked up on the Blackhawks story of the streak. They were the “buzz” in sports talk. Pressure was mounting. As the streak moved along, each team was bringing their A game in the hopes of being the team that beat the streak. Every game almost seemed like a playoff game. It was like a giant target was posted on each of their backs over their numbers. As a player, sure had to be pretty fun to play in that intense atmosphere every night, but after awhile, I was getting concerned that if they didn’t lose, the focus would be more on keeping the record going rather than trying to improve as a team to ensure that at the end of this season, that Stanley Cup will be making it’s way down Michigan Avenue again in a ticker tape parade. (And as a Cub fan, the 2010 parade with the Cup was the closest thing to seeing a parade like that for a team I have grown to love ever… and let me tell you, it was freaking awesome! It just makes me crave the day it happens for the Cubs, but then again, the Chicago big wigs probably won’t let them have a parade either, they will be only allowed to circle Wrigleyville…. and only during the day…. 😉 ),
Cub fans, you HAVE to remember the magical team of 2008, right? You know how it felt every tame that season, when it just seemed like the team didn’t know how to lose. Every day they went out there, and by the end of the game, they got it done. 97 out of 162 times. Yeah, the Blackhawks season right now feels like that.
So, tonight, the magical streak ended. They lost. Finally. It’s not a bad thing. It needed to be done. The pressure is off. The media will find a different story (watch out Derrick Rose, the spotlight will REALLY be on you now… ) NOW, they can put their real focus on the true “One Goal”, the Stanley Cup. If that Cup isn’t hoisted above their heads at the end of the season, the streak means nothing but a bunch of impressive numbers. (You know, like the 97 wins in a magical season for our Cubs that ended in train wreck in the playoffs…).
Okay, we now resume you to baseball….
Opening Day is just one month away!