Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hat Trick For Patrick

Here come the Hawks!

There's still time to get on the bandwagon, folks.

Could things get much better for the Chicago Blackhawks this season? A young team, getting better day by day, their longtime play-by-play announcer, Pat Foley, back in the booth where he belongs (although, in a sad twist, wouldn't be behind the mic in the Cup Finals, if they get that far), all games on television for the first time ever, over 22,000 fans in the seats, and in the standing room sections, pushing overall season attendance to over one million, and a berth in the conference finals!

It's been an amazing transformation, and a long time coming. Back in the 60's and 70's, when Bobby Hull, Stan Makita, and Tony Esposito were stars for the team, the Blackhawks were the hottest ticket in town.

There was a brief resurgence in the mid 80's, when Denis Savard helped the 'Hawks to a couple of Conference Finals appearances.

For a time in the early 90's, the Blackhawks also enjoyed a handful of years where they were legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup, reaching the finals once, but getting swept by Pittsburgh (I was in attendance for the final game. A sad night, for sure, but, man, I got the chance to watch a team skate around with the Stanley Cup. Even though it was the opponent, it was an awesome moment for a hockey fan like me).

When players were allowed to leave via free agency without getting paid what they deserved from "Dollar" Bill Wirtz, the team started to struggle, fans found other ways to entertain themselves, and the Blackhawks became an afterthought.

Then, Wirtz passed away, and everything turned around. Son, Rocky Wirtz took over operations, hiring John McDonough from the Cubs as President of the team. He brought back Pat Foley, all games were televised, and -- most importantly -- the team on the ice continued to improve, becoming contenders at just the right time.

Will the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup this year? Who knows? They may get swept in the next round. But, there's no denying that the future looks as bright for this team as it has in a very long time.

There's still room on the bandwagon.

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