May 28, 2009
(Ed. Note: Much like they didn't in the conference finals, the Hurricanes' eulogy hasn't arrived yet. Hang tight. Meanwhile ... as the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. Gone but not forgotten, we've asked for these losers to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The fans who hated them the most. Here is St. Louis Blues loyalist Sean Gallagher of St. Louis Game Time fondly recalling the Chicago Blackhawks.)
By Sean Gallagher
No one ever wants to be in this place, this spot, doing this duty. No one wants to attempt to speak about the positives of a young life snuffed out too early. It's too traumatic and too sad and too tragic. It breaks hearts and ruins lives. Eulogizing the end of a young promising life is just too hard.
Unless, of course, we're just talking about the young Chicago Blackhawks and the end of their season.
Oh, we had our laughs and our good times. It was so much fun to hear Hawk fans continuously repeat the mantra of "Brian Campbell makes some crazy mistakes, yes, but we'll take those in stride because of all of the positives he brings to our team."
Until, of course, he makes a no-look behind the back pass that results in an overtime game-winner for the opposition in the playoffs.
We similarly enjoyed the ridiculous dichotomy of a 20-year-old captain whose nickname is ‘Captain Serious' and whose playoff beard is more "Elvis' sideburns" than it is "intimidating." Because really, who doesn't get joy from a young man whose overriding reputation is for being serious? The fact that his playoff beard looks like some sort of bad movie disguise has had our Absurd-O-Meter pegged for weeks now.
And who could overlook the goat-turned-hero-turned-goat story of the year? Overpaid and underperforming Nikolai Khabibulin(notes) is placed on waivers at the start of this year. Unclaimed, Khabibulin becomes a man possessed, stealing the starting job from Cristobal Huet(notes), who had been handed the job. Khabibulin plays great, right up until he blows a 3-0 lead in one period in the playoffs, allowing the Red Wings to get back into the game. The ‘Bulin Wall' doesn't come back to finish the game and is never seen again on the Hawks bench; presumably sent to a present-day greater Chicagoland-area Gulag. Likely the Woodfield Mall.
Honestly, what better city for a goat-to-hero-to-goat story could there possibly be? Thank you, Blackhawks.
Oh, but as with any young life, we had our tears. Not as many as Patrick Kane, of course, but still. Naturally, not a one was shed by former St. Louis Blues blueliner Matt "Big Country" Walker, who seemed completely unaffected by a digit on his hand that looked like it belonged on a road sign in "Pee Wee's Big Adventure."
In the end, the Second Youngest Team In The NHLTM Blackhawks just could not get it done against the scourge of the Central Division Detroit Red Wings. For those of us who found a way to root for you through clenched fists, as we hoped you'd find a way to beat the team that shall not be named, you've done nothing but disappoint. Not only do we all need Silkwood showers with wire brushes to scrape away the layer of filth we've now accumulated, but we're also forced to now root for the Eastern Conference in the Finals.
Seriously? We now have to root for King of the Dirt 'Stache and Neanderthal Malkin? Great. Thanks a ton, Chicago.
In the end, not even Jesus could save the Hawks in this series. Joel Quenneville, a man who we consider to be a bit of a Hockey Jesus himself for his coaching skills and as "Keeper of the Secret of How to Break "The Trap,'" was even at a loss, going so far as to equate a controversial penalty with the end of times.
But let's be honest, Q; you got a five-minute major on a controversial call yourself. The 'controversial' hit that Niklas Kronwall(notes) employed to send Martin Havlat(notes) to the great hockey waiting room where he got to hang out with Paul Kariya(notes), RJ Umberger(notes) and Eric Lindros(notes) for a couple minutes kinda went your way, did it not?
But let's not dwell on all of the negatives of this young life snuffed out. There will be time to talk about the decision-making abilities of a man-boy who decides to self-apply the nickname "Showtime" and calls his personal stick graphics the "Candy Kane" pattern later. Instead, let's look back again at the positives.
The Blackhawks, celebrating the death of their longtime owner Dollar Bill Wirtz, capitalized on finally having a successful young team; putting their games on regular television and finally launching some solid fan-based marketing schemes that lured wary fans back to the United Center, selling out most of their home games for the first time since the days of Roenick (pre-going ballistic and two-handing his high school buddy Tony Amonte in the face), Chelios (pre-stabbing Chicago in the back) and Belfour (pre-"one billion dollars...BLEEAAAARRRGH!").
In the end, the Young Exciting Blackhawks® managed to do well enough to earn the curse of the popular: They became the winter home of the Bandwagon Fan. In the stands, talking about how they've been "hard core fans since the days of Scott Larmer and Bob Proberb" as they model their sideways vintage Hawks hat and their fresh new Toews jersey as they try to catch the attention of the jailbait across the concourse in their pink Kane jerseys.
In the end, the Hawks died a valiant death, falling in five games in a series that could easily have gone seven if a couple overtime bounces had gone their way, leaving their fanbase to either (hardcore fans) bury themselves in the bottom of a bottle full of dark brown liquid; or to (Bandwagon Fan) toss their replica jerseys on the floor of the closet as they pull their Cubs "Prior" jersey off the hanger and get ready for yet another long summer of disappointment and sideways vintage hats.
But do not cry too much you fans and surviving members of the Hawks fanbase. Because today there is at least one person with a smile on his face. Somewhere, looking up and laughing, Bill Wirtz is thinking, "All that money spent and what, exactly, did it get you?"