TELANDER: Blackhawks, fans have it better than other Chicago franchises
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com May 9, 2013 11:37PM
Updated: June 11, 2013 6:50AM
After the Blackhawks’ severe 5-1 trashing of the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night, I’m gonna say Hawks fans are . . . spoiled.
Whoa, whoa there, Jimmy ‘‘Golden Jet’’ Jersey!
I don’t mean spoiled as in bratty and snooty and wears Gucci. That is, Hawks guy fans don’t wear Gucci. The gals, perhaps. Under their red team sweaters. A lot of the women at Hawks games are drop-dead gorgeous, you know. They are. Why are they with you guys, anyway?
But I digress.
I mean, Hawks fans are lucky they’re not living in the Cubs’ world. Or the White Sox’ world, which is always, bizarrely, one planet behind the Cubs’. The Bears, as we know, are way out of season. And the Bulls are Rose-less.
Yet here it is, mid-spring, and the Hawks are still doing hockey, which their fans have come to expect. And should.
That’s the culture change, the thing that reminds us that we live in a large and great city, and we should not have to settle for second class.
With the next playoff round coming up against the Detroit Red Wings or San Jose Sharks, the Hawks are sitting pretty with home-ice advantage for as long as they want.
The year 2010 changed everything.
The Hawks won the Stanley Cup for the first time in nearly a half-century, and success became expected. Not hoped for.
Yes, the Hawks lost in the first round of the playoffs the last two seasons, but there was a brief Stanley Cup hangover effect that meant some good players had to be traded and released and the spirit had to be rebuilt.
The core was intact — Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith, plus ex-Red Wings scorer Marian Hossa (two goals in Game 5). What else was there to worry about?
It wasn’t like the old days, when the Hawks’ home games weren’t on TV?
So if you’re spoiled, it’s because things are the way they should be now.
Let me say it again. This is Chicago. Not Nashville or Columbus or Atlanta or Phoenix.
This is Original Six territory, and that means tradition and, above all, excellence. Or it does in Chicago.
Who knows how far the Hawks can go this season?
But the feeling is that the team has as much or more talent than anyone in the league. Pittsburgh? Yeah, the Penguins have some studs, but they haven’t always played in sync.
Plus, Sidney Crosby’s jaw is screwed into place, and that can slow a fellow a bit.
With the Hawks, you can start at the top and not find a clear weakness.
Chairman Rocky Wirtz has reversed the field.
He hired president John McDonough from the cursed Cubs, and that meant the Hawks instantly became perhaps the best-marketed team in the league.
Executive vice president Jay Blunk came over from the Cubs with McDonough five years ago, and his talent is obvious, too.
Yes, much-liked general manager Dale Tallon got squeezed out after he had built the nucleus that won the 2010 Cup, and that’s sad. But can anyone complain about the job vice president/general manager Stan Bowman has done?
Or coach Joel Quenneville? The ‘‘Q’’ is a perfect fit for a Chicago team — tough but compassionate, knowledgeable without being a wuss.
And the team?
A lot of folks thought this year’s club couldn’t go anywhere with Corey Crawford in goal and Ray Emery backing him up. Wrong. Remember the 24-game point streak? Did you hear the crowd chanting, ‘‘Co-rey! Co-rey!’’ Thursday night?
And while we’re at it, did anybody say Antti Niemi was the greatest goalie in the world, a surefire Cup winner? No. But he was. That one year.
Which is all it takes. One year of quality after another.
‘‘We’ve had trouble getting out of the first round the last couple of years,’’ Sharp said Tuesday. ‘‘A lot of people say that the first round sometimes is the toughest.’’
Could be. But Hawks fans expect to move on now.
‘‘We hope to play much longer,’’ Sharp agreed after the rout.
Which will mean Hawks fans get more of the great pregame show at the United Center, the crazy national anthem, the wild music through it all, the stupid, wonderful singing of ‘‘Chelsea Dagger’’ with every goal, every win.
Spoiled in a good way.