For champion Blackhawks, it was all about the journey


For champion Blackhawks, it was all about the journey

With tens of thousands of Blackhawks fans gathered at Soldier Field on Thursday afternoon, Pat Foley talked of a journey.

This particular story was about a particular player, and we’ll get to that later. But as the Blackhawks celebrated their third Stanley Cup in the past six seasons, the “journey” talk could have been about several few players or the team itself.

For Duncan Keith, it was coming full circle. The defenseman talked of an old trip home to British Columbia from Norfolk, Va., where he played for the Admirals at the time. That trip included a stop in Chicago and scalped Cubs tickets that left him with an obstructed view. Today, as the three-time Cup/two-time gold medal/two-time Norris Trophy/Conn Smythe winner said, “it turns out I have a pretty good view 10 years later at Soldier Field."

For Brad Richards, it was a phone call at the end of last year’s disappointing Stanley Cup Final end that led to this year’s Stanley Cup Final triumph. His new good friend/line-mate Patrick Kane sang his praises on Wednesday, hoping the two could keep winning together. Richards heard it. “Kaner has some pull around here,” he said at the lectern. “Maybe you’ll want me back.”

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Relive the Blackhawks 2015 Stanley Cup Parade and Rally]

For Scott Darling, to whom Foley was referring to, it was a plethora of minor league stops, a battle against alcohol won, a chance with the Blackhawks, a backup job won and the pivotal role he played in the first round.

For Teuvo Teravainen, who entered this 2014-15 season uncertain on the ice and in his new country, enters next season a strong postseason player whose wit and personality are coming through in his second language.

For Michal Rozsival, it was a second Cup, albeit one he wasn’t on the ice to hoist this time. A fractured ankle sustained in the second round and travel disrupted by Monday night’s storms prevented that. But he was there lifting it on Thursday, getting an ovation from a crowd that recognized the defenseman’s worth once he went down with that injury.

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your 2015 Stanley Cup champs gear right here]

For Kimmo Timonen, it was getting traded here to fulfill the career-long dream of winning the Cup. Timonen, who will retire, had the same Ray Bourque-like look on his face — Google it, kids — when he hoisted the Cup again on Thursday. It was sheer joy for a player who ended a great career with the ultimate prize.

For the Blackhawks, it was one last celebration for a team that won’t look the same once 2015-16 begins. The Blackhawks weathered a lot this season, from the usual ups and downs to the heartbreaking losses of assistant equipment manager Clint Reif and former teammate Steve Montador. The Blackhawks weathered it all, once again claiming a Cup that’s so difficult to obtain once in the salary-cap world, let alone three times.

Will the Blackhawks be celebrating another Cup in the near future? Players were already talking about it on Thursday; they’re familiar with the difficult journey it takes to get there again. But the reward’s been worth it.

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns


Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

Over the last 10 years, the words “ordinary” and "OK" have taken on a new meaning to Blackhawks players and fans alike. 

That’s “Coach Q” speak. 

A language where “ordinary” means awful and “just OK” means you were a non-factor. The good news is the last 10 seasons under Joel Quenneville have been anything but ordinary at the United Center. 

On Oct. 16th, 2008, the Blackhawks let go of fan-favorite Denis Savard after a 1-2-1 start to the season and named Quenneville as head coach in his place. Quenneville coached the Colorado Avalanche the previous season, but after another disappointing exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two mutually parted ways. He had originally planned to stay away from the bench for at least a season, but the Blackhawks triumvirate of Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and then-GM Dale Tallon brought Quenneville on as a scout and then handed him the keys to the car shortly after.

“Dale’s obligation is to put together a winning team,” said McDonough at Quenneville’s introductory press conference. “At this point, Joel is the coach of that team.”

It was an emotional day at the Blackhawks offices. Savard – a Blackhawks legend on the ice and a coach the players held in high regard – was let go just as things started to turn upwards for the organization. The end of the 2007-2008 season saw the Blackhawks once again miss out on the playoffs, but the fans began to flock to the United Center once more, and the hype train around the young team built around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was gaining steam.

“Moving forward, if we want to be a championship-caliber organization, we have to make tough decisions,” said Tallon. “This was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.” 

Savard was 65-66-16 in parts of three seasons as head coach of the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Quenneville had compiled eight 95+ point seasons behind the bench for the Blues and Avalanche in his 11 years as a head coach.

“We felt the experience and the track record of Joel would be a balance that we needed with a young, inexperienced team,” said Tallon. "Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

The gamble paid off for the Blackhawks in a major way. Once Quenneville took over, the team got to the sought-after next level. 

They finished the 08-09 season with 104 points, third-most in the NHL’s Western Conference, had a franchise-record setting 9-game win streak in the month of December and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. The “young and inexperienced” Blackhawks took the league by storm, dropping the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs in six games before taking down the rival Canucks in the next round.

They ultimately lost out to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, but the bar was now set for the organization. From then on, the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup contenders. 

Quenneville currently ranks 2nd in franchise history with 449 wins, trailing only Billy Reay’s 516. 

But most importantly, Quenneville’s 76 playoff wins rank at the top in the organization’s long and storied history, and those three Stanley Cups that he’s raised over his head were anything but “ordinary.”