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2013 Hawks faced tougher road than 2010 Stanley Cup winners, which makes title even sweeter

PhiladelphiFlyers v Chicago Blackhawks - Stanley Cup

Philadelphia Flyers v Chicago Blackhawks - Stanley Cup

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Updated: June 25, 2013 10:00PM



BOSTON — The Blackhawks’ run to the Stanley Cup this season felt bigger from the beginning than their run to the title in 2010.

It just did — from the record-setting start, to all the national attention, to local sports radio talking more hockey than ever, to the Presidents’ Trophy, to the dramatic rally against the Detroit Red Wings, to the Original Six matchup against the Boston Bruins and on and on.

But 2010 still was special.

The Hawks’ Cup in 2010 is why 2013 felt bigger. It set a precedent. It enthralled the fans who had stood by them through all the down times, woke up any dormant ones and created even more.

It also created a hunger for another Cup — among fans, in the locker room and in the front office. The demands for another Cup were ceaseless.

Expectations were high to begin with, but they soon ascended even higher. It led to internal conflicts and turmoil among the Hawks’ brass. It led to some squabbles among players. It led to aggravation and disappointment among fans when the 2011 and 2012 seasons ended with first-round playoff exits.

The problem was that the 2010 Hawks were an unparalleled group. They were a cast of brash, confident characters that could skate past, overpower and out-skill you — and do it all while chirping in your ear. They were the 1985 Bears on ice. They were that good.

It’s easy to contend the 2010 team was better than the 2013 version. Just start with the grunts and glue guys. Many members of the 2010 supporting cast — Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Troy Brouwer, Brian Campbell, Antti Niemi and Kris Versteeg — went on to become core pieces of other teams. You rarely see such a thing.

The 2010 team seemed indomitable; the 2013 team felt vulnerable.

But it’s all those things — the 2010 Cup, the ensuing salary-cap purge, the conflicts that followed, the questions that were raised, the calls for trades and firings, the expectations after a great start to the feelings of vulnerability — that make what the Hawks did this season special.

The 2013 Hawks might not have the sweet makeup of their 2010 counterparts, but their title might be sweeter, especially to them. The Hawks’ core — Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson — did as promised and finally rose to be champions again.

‘‘We knew if we didn’t win the big trophy, this season wouldn’t be good enough,’’ Hossa said. ‘‘It’s a fairy tale. The first one was special, but the second one feels even better.’’

In the middle of the madness after the Hawks’ Cup-clinching victory Monday, Sharp was asked if this title was harder to win than the one in 2010.

‘‘Sure, it was harder,’’ he said. ‘‘I think we all battled harder. It wasn’t easy. We came through it all.’’

That’s not a knock on Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw, Michal Handzus, Michal Rozsival and rest of the supporting cast, either. The Hawks’ road to the Cup was harder than it was in 2010. They had to escape the rival Red Wings, take out the defending champion Los Angeles Kings and beat the never-out-of-it, hit-you-in-the-mouth Bruins, who won it all in 2011.

And that all came after navigating a lockout-condensed regular season.

‘‘I’m proud to be one of those guys who can say they won the Stanley Cup two times,’’ Sharp said. ‘‘I know [general manager Stan Bowman] had a lot of tough decisions to make after the last Cup we won. We lost a lot of great players. The fact that he decided to keep me and a handful of other guys makes it even sweeter to win it again.’’



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