Blackhawks-Red Wings rivalry has been one for the ages
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org May 14, 2013 10:36PM
The Blackhawks and Red Wings have a spirited rivalry that dates to their infancy in the National Hockey League in the 1930s, when the Hawks upset the regular-season champion Wings to win their second Stanley Cup. The Hawks also beat the Wings in the 1961 Cup Finals.
The Red Wings handed the Hawks their worst loss in franchise history in 1987 — a 12-0 pasting at Joe Louis Arena. The Hawks were at a low point — losing in the first round of the playoffs in 1986 (0-3), 1987 (0-4) and 1988 (1-4). But the hiring of Mike Keenan in 1988 sparked a rejuvenation for the Hawks and reignited a heated rivalry with the Red Wings that remains white-hot for Hawks fans to this day.
Here are five memorable moments from the last 25 years of the Blackhawks-Red Wings rivalry:
Dec. 23, 1988: Hawks 7, Wings 2 at the Stadium — The teams combined for 308 penalty minutes. The Hawks had 32 penalties for a team-record 150 penalty minutes. But Detroit’s Bob Probert was a one-man wrecking crew: penalized for fighting (twice), roughing, elbowing, cross-checking, high-sticking and tripping, though he was not among the three players given game misconducts.
May 2, 1992: Hawks 2, Wings 1 at Joe Louis Arena: — The Hawks were 1-5-2 against the Red Wings in the regular season, but won the opener of their Division finals series as Jocelyn Lemieux broke a 1-1 tie in the third period. They won the series 4-0 and were swept by the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Oct. 6, 2007: Hawks 4, Wings 3 (SO) at the United Center: In his regular-season home debut, rookie Patrick Kane beat Dominik Hasek to score the only goal of the shootout as the Hawks overcame a 3-1 deficit. The Blackhawks were 4-16-2 vs. the Wings in the previous four seasons. Since Kane and Jonathan Toews arrived, they are 24-7-5 vs. Detroit.
May 22, 2009: Hawks 4, Wings 3 (OT) at the United Center — In their first postseason appearance since 2002, the Hawks were down two games to none in the Western Conference finals. But Patrick Sharp scored 1:52 into overtime to keep the Hawks in contention.
March 3, 2013: Hawks 2, Wings 1 (SO) at Joe Louis Arena — In a nationally televised game on the road, with their NHL-record streak of 21 games without a regulation loss to start the season in jeopardy, Patrick Kane scored the tying goal with 2:02 to play in regulation, then scored the only goal of the shootout to improve the Hawks’ record to a stunning 19-0-3.
Updated: June 16, 2013 6:41AM
Former Blackhawk Troy Murray remembers when the Blackhawks-Red Wings rivalry was at its peak. That’s when Detroit really did suck — the players, the coach, the fans, the whole damn town.
‘‘It was vicious,’’ said Murray, who played 11 seasons with the Hawks from 1982 to 1993. ‘‘Bob Probert in a preseason game at the old Chicago Stadium got in a fight with Gary Nylund. It was a five-on-five brawl. And Bob Probert hit him with an uppercut, and it ripped his nose off his face. Seriously, it just ripped his nose apart. Those are the kinds of things that leave a lasting impression on both sides of the ice.’’
How lasting? To this day. Blackhawks fans still chant ‘‘De-troit sucks’’ at the United Center, even though the Red Wings haven’t sucked since before many of them were born.
‘‘The fans get riled up for it, for sure,’’ Hawks winger Patrick Sharp said. ‘‘I remember playing here eight years ago, when we didn’t draw so well for our regular-season games. But every time the Wings were in town, it was a sellout crowd and a playoff-type atmosphere. That rivalry in the crowd filters down onto the ice, and it makes both teams play even harder.
‘‘I can say I’ve got respect for them and their coaching staff, the quality of players they have. Nick Lidstrom [the Wings’ seven-time Norris Trophy-winning defensman] — I played against him for a number of years. There was an incident where I apparently speared him in ... an area that caused some problems. I didn’t even know I did it.
‘‘When I called him on the phone to apologize, he was more than gracious. That just shows you not only the kind of person he is, but the organization that they have in general.’’
The Blackhawks-Red Wings rivalry still is going strong. But, as the recollections of Murray and Sharp illustrate, times have changed. It’s very, very doubtful that Probert called Nylund to apologize for ripping his nose off his face.
It’s not that kind of rivalry anymore. But the shame is that it probably won’t be any kind of rivalry anymore. With the Red Wings moving into the Eastern Conference, the teams will play only twice a season.
No matter how entertaining the matchups are — whether it’s the coaches (Mike Keenan vs. Jacques Demers), the fighters (Probert vs. Dave Manson) or the Hall of Fame centers (Steve Yzerman vs. Denis Savard), familiarity is a necessary component of a rivalry.
‘‘The Hawks had a great rivalry with Toronto, and that’s kind of faded because you only saw Toronto [in Chicago] once in three years,’’ Murray said. ‘‘I expect Detroit and Chicago will fade over the years because you’re not going to see them, which is an unfortunate thing.’’
The Blackhawks might miss the rivalry more than they know. While the Red Wings were a source of entertaining vitriol for the fans, they were a measuring stick for the Hawks — a template that helped transform them from a laughingstock into a Stanley Cup champion.
Former general manager Dale Tallon emulated the Red Wings’ development of speed and skill. Current GM Stan Bowman is assisted by his father, Scotty Bowman, who turned the Red Wings into a juggernaut, winning Stanley Cup championships in 1997, 1998 and 2002.
It’s not a coincidence that before winning the Cup in 2010, the Blackhawks lost to the Red Wings 4-1 in the conference finals in 2009.
‘‘I thought it was a good learning curve for us,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘A young team learning from one of the teams that knows how to win, the defending Cup champs. I think there’s an education there from them.’’