The 2009-2010 Chicago Blackhawks are Stanley Cup champions, ending a drought reaching back to 1961. Congratulations, they were a top team all season and this is an appropriate resolution to the campaign. In a comment on a previous post, I predicted they'd win in six games, and here we are. Of course, it could have gone either way, but there's something right about it.
For me, the byline is that the Toronto Maple Leafs are now the lone Original Six team that has not won a Stanley Cup since expansion.
But more than this, the Leafs have not even been to a final series, period. They simply have not been a factor for over 40 years. No mecca of any sport has been so utterly inconsequential to winning as the Maple Leafs.
Mecca of hockey? Yeah, no. This is a franchise with precious little if any professional pride or sporting integrity, willing to take hard-earned money from championship-starved fans and return an inferior product with no intentions of honoring the legacy of greatness of long ago, nor even support another team entering the region in order to allow real fans the chance to afford to see professional hockey even though southern California manages to support two teams in one city (Anaheim Mighty Ducks, who have won a Stanley Cup, and the Los Angeles Kings, who have been to the finals).
But, this post really shouldn't be about a loser franchise, this is about champions, the Blackhawks. They’ve been a good team for the last several seasons and have finally broken through to the top. They have been good in the recent past – this is their fourth trip to the finals since 1967, so they have put winning teams on the ice that went almost to the very end. Finally, they have been rewarded for their efforts.
This is what sport is all about – figuring it out, putting all the pieces together, creating chemistry, working together to overcome obstacles and challenges, and bringing joy to the fans who support them.
My kind of town, Chicago is. In my lifetime, I’ve seen da Bears win an NFL Superbowl; da Bulls win a string of NBA championships; even the White Sox have won an MLB World Series (the Cubbies, as a charter member of the MLB, are suffering an incredible drought of over 100 years…but at least, Chicago is a big enough town to accommodate two teams, so North Siders can at least vicariously enjoy the south side White Sox win if they so choose).
Besides the general feeling that Chicago is a winner city, there are some statistics to back this up - it's been recognized as "the best sports city" by Sporting News as recently as 2006, with a criteria that crunches a number of very interesting factors.
No such luck here in Toronto. Yeah, sure, we have won Grey Cups in my day (when we should have built in preparation for hosting the NFL). And we’ll never forget the back to back Blue Jays World Series wins (chiefly because "in our memory" is the only place we're ever again going to see a World Series championship). But, we don’t pretend to be the mecca of CFL football or of baseball. Our claim is that this is the hockey hotbed.
Without a Cup, however, it’s mighty cold. Maybe they should move the Hockey Hall of Fame to Montreal.