Hawk Talk: The drought ends after 49 years


Hawk Talk: The drought ends after 49 years

Saturday, June 12, 2010
10:28 PM

By Chris Boden

It was February 7, 1973. My first Blackhawks game. I cant remember whether it was a Christmas present or an early birthday present, but my dad came home from work downtown to the near southwest suburbs, picked up this 9-year-old and headed back downtown with me to Chicago Stadium.

Up to the second balcony. A seat was, what four bucks back then? Yes, I did get beer spilled on me at some point and came home smelling of that and cigarette smoke. I also remember it was a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres in which I yelled out a penalty before the ref blew his whistle for a Sabre using his hand to cover the puck as it trickled towards the net. Ill have to go back and look over the tattered program thats still saved in a box somewhere, along with newspaper clippings for other details. I remember Rick Martin was on the cover. Not Pit. Rick. But that was about all the disappointment I had that night, falling in love with the building, the noise, the sport, and the team.

Id missed Bobby Hull by one season, but all the other greats from that era were right in front of me. Esposito. Mikita. Pappin. Martin. Dennis Hull. Koroll. White. Stapleton. Magnuson. I remember a few short months later being on the verge of tears listening to Lloyd Petit describe them falling in Game 6 to Montreal in the Stanley Cup Final.

Fast forward 37 years!

Turns out a kid from Buffalo, born almost 16 years after my first Hawks game, ends up scoring the goal that finally lets me see them win a Cup. I never asked Patrick Kane, but Id guess he was probably on the verge of tears at age 10 watching his beloved Sabres lose in Game 6 to Dallas in the Cup Final. I wonder if Kane ever holds Brett Hulls heart-breaking controversial goal against Bobby when he deals with The Golden Jet here. By now, probably not, if ever. Kanes was in overtime Wednesday night in Philly. Hulls in triple-overtime.

Kanes goal will be remembered, and it was the finishing touch. But hed be the first to tell you it wasnt just him and there were too many moments and contributors along this glorious ride the past two months. Heck, the past 9-12 months. Go up and down the roster, and every one of those players did something along the way big or small that helped them get to that moment Wednesday night, just after 10 oclock.

Its truly been a privilege to have gone along with them albeit from a reporters distance on that ride. Hockey players are by far the easiest professional athletes to deal with, and this group made it real easy to root for them, while trying to balance some journalistic integrity. Witnessing them go through that grind some as early as last August with Olympic orientation, to Helsinki, through Vancouver, then re-charging after 82 contests for 22 more pressure-packed games, one couldnt help but feel happy for them in that loud locker room Wednesday night, into Thursday morning. And again, I smelled like beer (champagne, too) and smoke (cigars this time) when the night was done.

Like many of you who grew up with the franchise and followed it through thick and thin, you may have experienced the same sensation I did Friday - whether you were at the rally or watching on television. It was almost 90 degrees outside, but there were moments I looked down at my arms, and the hairs were standing up.

With this celebration comes realization. John Madden admitted Saturday there had been times over the previous two and a half days that the players talked of being in their final moments together as a team. Not everyone can come back, courtesy of the salary cap. For those who might still be bitter about what looms ahead and point fingers over whos to blame for last summers contract issues, lets look at it this way: Do you really think the organization wouldve purposefully put itself in the situation it faces right now with all the talent theyd love to keep around longer than they may be able to? No, we didnt know a year ago whether this would actually become a championship team. But if it didnt happen this year, it was a safe bet theyd want to keep as much of it as they could together for another run. Lets see how Stan Bowman and company are able to maneuver the cap and the personnel over the next couple of months. He admitted Saturday hes thought about it a lot because hes known its coming. Its just a guess on my part, but things may very well happen quickly, especially with the draft just two weeks away. A veteran or two could conceivably be moved to teams looking for immediate help in exchange for early-round picks that help the cap now, and supply talent that can be NHL-ready in a couple of years. This teams locked-in nucleus will still be young. Plus, the postseason pedigree that Kane, Toews, Keith, Niemi, Seabrook etc. gained over the past two months should keep this team contending, no matter whos around them. Yes, the depth of this roster was unmatched and was a huge factor in its ultimate success. But all you have to do is look around this years playoffs to see its not always the deepest, most talented teams that survive deep into the postseason. Most importantly, they - and everyone else who comes back - have done it, and will have a greater understanding of what it takes to do it again. Guarantees? Nope. Just ask Sidney Crosby after he figured it out a year ago before his Pens were knocked out in the second round last month by a much thinner team on paper. But its certainly better to have done it already than not. And thats the important thing moving forward. Imagine how the organization and fans wouldve felt if theyd fallen short, with all the work ahead looming? What also cannot be underestimated is how well these players get treated by management, and all you fans. Other players around the league notice that. When theyre weighing offers, dont think that doesnt factor in. The same goes for the current Hawks wholl be able to listen to other teams. The other side of that is - they have the ring, now they want the money.

But while we wait for whats unknown right now, lets keep enjoying what this teams already given us. That wait was way too long not to enjoy it.

What being teammates with Connor McDavid was like for Blackhawks' Drake Caggiula

What being teammates with Connor McDavid was like for Blackhawks' Drake Caggiula

Blackhawks forward Drake Caggiula will likely be back in the lineup for Wednesday night's Game 3 against the Oilers in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Caggiula was suspended for Game 2 over an illegal check to the head of Edmonton forward Tyler Ennis in Game 1.

As a Game 2 spectator, the 26-year-old feisty winger watched former teammate Connor McDavid terrorize the Hawks with a goal 19 seconds into the contest, another just 3:46 later and a power-play marker to complete the hat trick late in the second period.

Caggiula and McDavid played together in Edmonton from 2016 until Drake was traded to the Blackhawks on December 30 of 2018.

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"In terms of playing with Connor, I had a front row seat to watch him play," Caggiula told the media on a Zoom call Wednesday from Edmonton. "He's obviously a world-class talent. His speed and the way he thinks the game and the way he plays the game is pretty much unlike anybody else. He's one of those players that (if) you let him have his time and space, he's going to be extremely dangerous and I think if we don't get any bodies on him, we don't slow him down and he just has free ice to roam around, it's a pretty dangerous combination for him. 

"He's a tremendous player, he makes everybody around him better and that's why he's probably recognized as one of the best players, if not the best player in the world right now and we got to make sure we do our job to limit his speed and limit his opportunities."

The two's relationship goes a long way back.

"We got back to... I was in 12th grade and he was in ninth grade, so I know a lot of people talk that we were best friends for the longest time, but no. We went to school together and we knew each other and obviously playing together for two-and-a-half years, we obviously built on that relationship. I definitely consider us close, we work out together in the summertime and all that sort of stuff. We definitely have a pretty good relationship."

The three-year age gap between the two mattered less to Caggiula when he was looking for guidance when he was about to turn pro.

"When I was leaving college and trying to decide where to sign I had reached out to him and asked him what he thought about Edmonton and obviously he gave me some pretty positive insight and that also (led) into some of the reasons why I signed in Edmonton. 

"He was great as a young captain, I was able to lean on him and despite being three years older than him, I leaned on him and asked him a lot of questions, asked him how I could better my game and I was able to learn quite a bit from him. ... Just to be able to play with him was a special treat, but we're on opposite teams now and I got a job to do and I got to play hard against him and he's going to do the same against us. Like I said, all friendships are on hold right now, we're just here to play hockey."

Caggiula got engaged during the NHL pause. It sounds like he expects his friendships with some of the players on Edmonton to be back on after the series concludes because he said some Oilers will get invites to the big day when the details are ironed out later on.

Drake Caggiula doesn't agree with Game 2 suspension, but 'I respect the decision'

Drake Caggiula doesn't agree with Game 2 suspension, but 'I respect the decision'

As a player who's had a history of head injuries, Blackhawks forward Drake Caggiula is all for the league punishing illegal checks to the head. Those kinds of hits have no place in the game.

It's why Caggiula was suspended for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers after delivering a "high, forceful hit on Oilers forward Tyler Ennis [in Game 1] that picked the head, making it the main point of contact on a hit where such head contact was avoidable," according to the NHL Department of Player Safety.

While he respects the ruling, Caggiula doesn't necessarily agree with it.

"I think what you can ask for is consistency around the league and make sure that it's the same for everybody," Caggiula said. "It was a one-game suspension, I don't necessarily agree with it, but I respect the decision and I totally respect the fact we want to protect players' heads and safety."

The incident occurred at the 7:42 mark of the second period on Saturday. Caggiula's right shoulder clearly made contact with Ennis' head, but it was a tricky play to analyze because Ennis' head positioning changed on the follow-through of his clearing attempt.

At no point during Wednesday's pregame video conference call did Caggiula try to defend his hit on Ennis. He simply wanted clarity from the Department of Player Safety on how that specific hit was different from other non-suspendable ones and got his answer.

Now he's ready to move on.

"The consistency thing is what we're all looking for as players," Caggiula said. "We just want to know what the standard is. I know what the standard is now, and I have no issue with it."

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