The Chicago Blackhawks started doing business back in 1926, which happens to be the same year Pontiac and Route 66 were born. The Tampa Bay Lightning started doing business in 1992, which happens to be the same year Euro Disney and Mall of America were born.
Two weeks ago, those were the only facts I needed. I had little use for any professional hockey team coming out of a football state. Never mind that the Lightning actually won a Stanley Cup back in 2004 and never mind that they finished with the best record in the league this season. As far as I was concerned, the only peeps who were going to get away with rooting for the Bolts in these finals were the ones born in the Post-Clintonian Era.
I had my ‘Hawks winning this series in five games, easy. It took all of twenty minutes of Game 1 to change my mind. Because the Lightning had more game than Bob Barker, and it was apparent from the first drop of the puck. They ran a fast break offense . . . in hockey. They went six games deep- in spite of all the injuries- and they played the lights out of every faceoff, every period, every game. They didn’t shrink inside the moment, they grew up.
Which only makes this Chicago win that much sweeter. To beat a club that was every bit its equal for much of this series, and to close out the series at home for the first time since 1938? That’s what I’m talking ’bout.
Make no mistake, last night was Game 7 for the Blackhawks. Because if this series went back to Tampa tomorrow night, well . . . I love my team and I’m never, ever gonna count them out, but it would have been like letting Joe Frazier get one more round. Never a good idea.
So now the Blackhawks have three Stanleys in the past six years, and I’m not gonna bother myself with the semantics of all this dynasty chatter. Alls I know is that Chicago is the new Hockey Town (Take that Detroit!) and that my team knows how to close the toughest deals. The chances of Chitown getting back this way again are looking mighty friendly at the moment. They have two of the best players in the world, they have a goalie who will always carry a chip on his shoulder, they have youth, and they have a coach who is working up his Hall of Fame resume with each new summer party.
None of that matters once next season rolls around. Injuries, departures and clubs like the Tampa Bay Lightning are gonna have plenty to say about what happens next year. Which is why Chitown- as great a sports town as I’ve ever seen- is gonna stay chill all dog day summer long. Because they’ve got the best damn answer to any sports argument you can muster.