With the 2013 calendar year coming to a close, we have to look back on what a year it’s been for the Chicago Blackhawks. The year began with uncertainty, continued with triumph and is ending with promise. The Blackhawks have become the darlings of the NHL and the face of hockey for many a sports fan. What more could Blackhawks fans ask for? Okay, another Stanley Cup, but that was obvious. While some might point to 2010, the fact of the matter is 2013 was the year the Blackhawks truly became one of the NHL’s elite teams. In fact, it might be considered the greatest year in recent memory.
It’s hard to believe that the 2013 season was almost never played. The NHL and NHLPA were locked in a vicious and frustrating labor dispute that kept the players locked out. It wasn’t until January that the season finally started, and boy what a season it was! The Blackhawks started the season with an incredible 24-game points streak — half the season! They ended the regular season with the President’s Trophy and began their long slog through the playoffs.
After an easy victory over the Minnesota Wild, the Hawks found themselves down 3-1 against the hated Detroit Red Wings. But they managed to pull off an incredible three-game comeback to send the Wings packing and end the NHL’s most-played rivalry. After beating the Los Angeles Kings in a hard-fought five-game series, the Hawks faced Original Six foe Boston Bruins. In what could be considered the best Stanley Cup Final in recent memory, the Hawks dispatched of the Bruins in six games, two of the wins in overtime and that incredible 17-second rally in Game 6.
In the current season, the Blackhawks may have started a little slow but they’ve shown no signs of the dreaded Stanley Cup Hangover. Instead, they’re just as cohesive a unit as they’ve ever been. And while they have a few flaws they still need to work on, they’re still in good position and are definite contenders to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions.
And it’s not just the team’s achievements that are worth mentioning. Patrick Kane continued his maturation and positioned himself as one of the best players in the NHL by winning the Conn Smythe Trophy and is currently second in points in the NHL behind Sidney Crosby. Bryan Bickell had a breakout performance during the playoffs and so did Corey Crawford. Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw are poised to become the next dynamic duo. Patrick Sharp is getting better, as is Duncan Keith, and Jonathan Toews is making his case for the Team Canada Captaincy.
Off the ice, Joel Quenneville became the most successful coach in team history and the only one to win two Stanley Cups. General Manager Stan Bowman made enough moves to keep the Hawks competitive for years to come, and Rocky Wirtz and John McDonough are keeping the front office successful, making the team the most popular in the city and surrounding area. And that’s saying something about one of the most competitive sports markets not just in the United States, but possibly North America. The 2010 calendar year can’t hold a candle to that.
So for those reasons it is quite obvious that the 2013 calendar year was the best the team has had in recent memory. It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago Blackhawks games were nearly empty. Now, they’re selling out every night. On and off-ice success has made the team the darlings of the Chicago area and the NHL. If there are better years then so be it, but for now 2013 will be the year that Chicago Blackhawks fans will remember for a long time.