Thursday, August 6, 2015

Summer posting: Blackhawks A-Z

It’s summer, and, even though I didn’t really make any posts during the season (focused too much on video games and stuff), it’s time for my yearly tradition of ripping off stuff other sites do but for the Blackhawks and doing my own thing, because I’m too lazy to come up with ideas.
This time it’s Puck Daddy’s A to Z series, with something starting (or related to, or something) with each letter in the alphabet from the team. It should be obvious which team I’m doing, but some of the letters are just plain hard. So I’ll put in honorable mentions as necessary.

A – Anthem: Start things with the beginning of each game. When the (now packed) United Center crowd would cheer wildly as the national anthem is sung. The building gets unnervingly loud full of people literally cheering on their country. It takes a person with a strong voice to be heard over that, and at the time the anthem tradition began, Wayne Messmer was the man that provided that voice. But after he was fired for (ugh) co-owning the “competing” Chicago Wolves (I wrote a whole article on them, and, suffice to say, they have always been a minor league team, so yeah), the duty eventually went to Jim Cornelison, who has a voice that can literally break glass (in what was totally a stunt). Even then, the noise level from the 20,000 or so Blackhawks fans drowns him out. 

B – Bobby Hull: Most any conversation about the greatest Blackhawk player has to include Bobby Hull. The Golden Jet was a dynamic force on the ice (and, allegedly, the perpetrator of some reprehensible things off it). In 15 seasons with the Hawks, he scored over 600 goals, and if you include his WHA goals in Winnipeg, with over 900, he eclipses even the great Wayne Gretzky for putting the puck in the back of the net. He’s one of the few players who literally changed how the game was played, when, along with Stan Mikita, they invented the curved stick. Before then, sticks were flat and, as such, didn’t control pucks as well, now, players could aim with more accuracy. Not much else needs to be said for him, though his brother Dennis was pretty good too (I know, Dennis doesn’t start with B, but this makes more sense than tacking it on to H). It says a lot about any other players in the conversation that they’re even in the same conversation.

C – (this one is going to have two entries, because I had written one then remembered I NEEDED to write the other, and couldn’t fit it anywhere else) Checkerdome(below)/Commit to the Indian: Let me set the scene for you, it’s January 24, 2008, the Blackhawks just lost their second straight game, putting them right at .500 going into the All Star Break (Only future Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith, and future Conn Smythe winner Patrick Kane are invited). After a lackluster performance in coach Denis Savard’s eyes, he rips into the team in the postgame press conference. Now remember, this is the 07-08 season, the faintest glimmer of dawn after the Dark Ages, so it didn’t get nearly as much press in Chicago as it would have 5 years later (also why this footage I could find was from Canada, because Canada is like a sponge of hockey, and will soak up every last drop of hockey related goodness from anywhere).

In his, let’s be honest, rant, he says “We committed to them, some of them we commit to them for 2 years, 3 years. They gotta commit to us. They gotta commit to the Indian. They (don’t) wanna commit to the Indian, let’s go upstairs, we’ll get em outta here”. It was one of the first real soundbites (I don’t want to say memes, because no) of the current Blackhawks era. The 07-08 Hawks would finish with 40 wins, and above .500 for the first time in years, but missing out on the playoffs by 3 points. Here’s a clip of the press conference, as I said, from TSN’s SportsCentre. 
Checkerdome: With Detroit leaving the Western Conference with their tails between their legs, the St Louis Blues are Chicago’s biggest divisional rival. They’re pretty good now, and have the longest history of any team in the West besides the Hawks. They were an expansion franchise in 1967, at the end of the Original Six era. However, unlike the other five cities, St Louis didn’t have an ownership group apply for a franchise (other cities, including Buffalo, Baltimore and Vancouver, did apply, and were turned down at the time). So you may be asking yourselves, why did St Louis, the armpit of the nation, get a team over these very deserving cities?

Well I’ll tell you, Arthur Wirtz, grandfather of current owner Rocky, owned the St Louis Arena, which would later be called the Checkerdome (after Purina painted their checker logo on the top of the building). However, the building was so poorly maintained that it had become an ugly money pit, which needed massive rehabbing or tearing down, which is an apt description for St Louis as a whole. Wirtz then made the ownership of the club contingent on purchasing his building, so someone else could fix it. The St Louis Blues literally would not exist if it weren’t for the greed of the Blackhawks owner.

And that’s not even the best Blues are terrible story! But that one isn’t related, so it’ll be for another day. Suffice to say, it included a threat to relocate somewhere much better that St Louis (I know, that narrows it down to everywhere but Detroit).

D – Drought/Dark Ages: While I could literally write a book about this period, these two eras get lumped together because not only do they overlap, but they’re forever linked by causation. Between 1961 and 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t win a single Stanley Cup title. They made it to the Finals 5 times in that span (usually because they were in the weak West division), and made the playoffs in 28 straight of those years (the second longest such streak in NHL history). Unfortunately, after the 60s, the last time the Blackhawks were good enough to come close to contention was the late 80s through the mid 1990s. That timeframe meant that they only had to compete with the Gretzky Oilers, Lemieux Penguins, and later the stupid wings (I legitimately thought about putting Detroit Sucks for D, it was really close). Though, by the time those teams were dismantled, the Blackhawks had dismantled themselves as well, because we fully entered the Dark Ages.

The Dark Ages were the period of not only excessive frugality (which led to the team trading or letting walk players like Ed Belfour, Jeremy Roenick, Chris Chelios, and Dominik Hasek (that wasn’t as much about frugality as it was Belfour’s ego, but that’s another story)), but also alienating fans by doing something really really silly. You see, Chicago is the biggest sports town that there is. So logically, most any team can succeed there, given enough exposure. The Bulls gained exposure by having the best team ever assembled together and putting them on Sportschannel Chicago (we literally upgraded our cable just to watch Bulls games in the fall through spring). The Cubs and White Sox also broadcast their games. Every NFL game is broadcast on Sunday (or Monday, or…Thursday), especially the Bears ones in the Chicago area. Do you see a pattern here? Good, cause I’ll talk about that later actually. So due to the terrible product that eventually ended up on the ice, as well as the lack of exposure the team gave themselves, Chicago kind of…forgot… about the Blackhawks. When there’s so much sports that can be taken in, a team has to make some effort to get themselves noticed, and the Blackhawks…weren’t. So most news stations didn’t cover the Blackhawks, or hockey at large for that matter (hockey is a more regional sport, with fanbases really only caring about their own team more than other sports, supposedly). That led to less people coming to games, which led to more salary dumping, which was a vicious cycle. That was the unfortunate narrative for a large period of time, and many people’s lives.

E – Esposito, Tony: Among the best goaltenders to lace up for the Hawks, and probably the most prominent of the Blackhawks ambassadors. Tony O was the Hawks goalie for about 15 seasons, between 1970 and 84, and the team made the playoffs in each of them, including a heartbreaking game 7 loss to Montreal in 1971. He won the Veznia award in three of them (back then, the award went to the goalie with the lowest save percentage, like the Jennings trophy today). He was a very good goalie, and as such, he now has his number up in the (increasingly crowded) rafters at the United Center.

F – Foley, Pat: The longtime voice of the Blackhawks on TV, Foley has been a…an interesting presence in the press box during his time. He’s been nationally broadcast many times, in the 90s he did games for Fox, and now some Blackhawks games are carried on either NHL Network or NBC Sports (due to most Hawks games being on Comcast Sportsnet, which is owned by the same company). He’s been very vocal about his favorite and least favorite players, and would probably be considered a homer if he weren’t in the same city as Hawk Harrelson. Just listen to his comments about Alexander Karpovtsev after the Blackhawks traded him. 

Honestly, just go through the search for Pat Foley on YouTube, there’s so much gold I can’t post it all here. And just remember when there’s tirteen tirty tree left in the turd period. After being fired in 2006 and working for the Wolves for a couple years, he was brought back in the sea change that happened when Rocky took over, and everyone rejoiced.

G – Gardiner, Charles: While assembling an all-time best Blackhawks team, putting Tony Esposito in net seems a pretty obvious move. Maybe Ed Belfour instead. Obviously, they’re excellent goaltenders, but arguably the best played for the Hawks’ first Cup winning squad. Gardiner emerged as one of, if not the, very best goaltenders in the league during the Blackhawks’ formative years. He never had a GAA over 2.83, despite playing behind some teams that, at times, weren’t particularly good. In 1931-32 he was the only goalie with a GAA under 2, at 1.81. And he played every game most seasons (granted the season was only 44 games long, but still).

In the 32-33 season, he developed a tonsilular infection, which would eventually end his life in June of 1934. Not only did he continue to play, but he played very well, and was instrumental in the first championship the team won in 1934. He was so respected by his peers in the dressing room that he was unanimously selected team captain for that season, and is the only goalie to captain his team to a Stanley Cup (a record that now can never be broken, as the NHL has since banned goalies from captaining). Outside the organization, he was recognized by many people in the hockey community for his play, and has since had an entire conference named after him in his native United Kingdom (the Gardiner Conference in the Elite Ice Hockey League, which I blogged about at this link). He was an inaugural inductee into the Hall of Fame, and yet doesn’t have his number retired (for him, the #1 is retired for Glenn Hall, who was also a really great Stanley Cup winning goalie for the Blackhawks).

H – Hawkvision: During the TV blackout (more on that in a bit) the Blackhawks did decide to air games on TV. On a stupidly expensive subscription TV plan called Hawkvision (mercifully it didn’t have Ken Harrelson, or so I think). It aired all games in the 1992-93 season. For a low low cost of $30. A MONTH. By comparison, NHL Gamecenter Live, which shows all (out of market blah blah blah) games costs $20 a month, in 2015. In 1992 that’s the equivalent of $51 each month, to watch about 15 games. $2 a game, before inflation. That’s more than HBO (I think, it’s not particularly clear how much it costs, and I don’t want to pay it for a throwaway joke buried in this article). Needless to say, Hawkvision flopped, hard, and games weren’t on TV for the rest of Bill Wirtz’s life.

I – Irvin, Dick: The very first Blackhawks captain, Irvin was considered one of the best players of his day, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a result. He played the last few seasons of his career in Chicago, after Winnipeg, Portland, an interruption to serve in World War I, and Regina, Saskatchewan. An injury ended his playing career, but he ended up winning multiple Stanley Cups as a coach (none with the Blackhawks, he was let go after losing the 1931 Stanley Cup Final).

J – Jonathan Toews: The current Blackhawks captain (that wasn’t planned), he’s just about the best player in the NHL currently, and has the hardware to boot. 2 Olympic gold medals, 1 Olympic best forward award (2010), 3 Stanley Cups, a Selkie Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy winner and if he retired today, with all that he’d probably have his number retired, and would probably be inducted into the Hall of Fame. But he’s still in his prime, and there’s a very very good chance that he will have a lot more hardware added to his collection by the time he does retire. He and another player I’ll mention soon are not only the faces of the franchise, but two of the biggest stars in hockey today.

K – Keith, Duncan: Ok, Toews, another (mystery!) player, and Duncan Keith, are among the biggest stars in the hockey world. Duncan Keith can do it all. As a multiple time Norris Trophy winner (fun fact: with the induction of Nik Lidstrom this year, every single eligible multiple time Norris Trophy winner has been inducted into the Hall of Fame), multiple time Olympic gold medalist, 3 time Stanley Cup winner, Conn Smythe winner, the man has earned some time off, but he won’t take it, because his superhuman work ethic apparently dictates that he must play 45 minutes a game no matter what. Yes the Blackhawks had basically 4 defensemen in the 2015 Cup run, but it didn’t matter, because Duncan Keith counts as two, and Seabrook and Hjalmarsson are at least 1.5 each.
He’s probably the best defenseman in team history, and with an almost 90 year history, with great players like Keith Magnuson, Pierre Pilote, Chris Chelios, and the end years of Bobby Orr, that’s saying something.

I should put in a mention for Magnuson. Another player who captained and coached the team, Magnuson was a beloved ambassador for the game (before the Blackhawks ambassadors were really a thing) off the ice and a feared defenseman on it. Tragically his life was cut short in 2003, but his work with the team and with the Alumni Association means his legacy will live on.

L – Lepisto, Sami: Ok, that was a bit of a downer, but remember that Sami Lepisto played for the Blackhawks once? Yeah I couldn’t think of anything for L, and after I publish this I’ll think of the perfect thing and smack myself in the forehead.

M – Mikita, Stan: Arguably the best player to play for the team ever. Stan Mikita was one of the best centers in the game, and is the only player to not only win the Art Ross (scoring title) Hart (MVP) and Lady Byng (“gentlemanly play”) trophies in the same year, but to do it twice, in back to back seasons. In just under 1400 games played (all for the Blackhawks), Mikita had 1467 points, making him one of the few players to average over a point per game for his entire career. One of the longest tenured players, with 22 NHL seasons under his belt, again, all for Chicago. Very few players can claim to have played in three different decades, but he played in 4. He is the franchise recordholder in games, assists, and points, and no active player is even halfway to his records in any of them. He had the longest career playing for one team that doesn’t suck. Stan Mikita is so great that both Canada and Slovakia wanted him to represent them, even given the embarrassment of riches they have. The team repayed his service by retiring his number at the beginning of the season after he retired. Very few teams do that, but the Blackhawks did, for a man who quite possibly was the best player they ever had.

N – Niklas Hjalmarsson: Hjammer is one of the more underrated defensemen in the league. Obviously, playing behind one of the best doesn’t help. Though, anchoring the second defensive pairing for the entirety of the modern Blackhawks dynasty is nothing to sneeze at. The fact is that his consistent play has allowed the Blackhawks to ease off on the top pairing (usually Keith and Seabrook, but with the Q-Blender ®, it could be anybody!), and allow them to rest, while rolling three defensive pairs. There may be better defensemen in the league, but on most any team, Hjalmarsson would be in the top pairing. That says more about the depth of talent than his quality as a player, and he was a member of the silver medal winning 2014 Swedish Olympic team, and Sweden is known for having many good hockey players, as well as flatpacked furniture and gummy fish.

O – Olczyk, Eddie: STOP IT RIGHT THERE! This local boy (literally born in Chicago, as local as you can get while being born in a hospital) not only played for the Blackhawks, and played pretty well in his first stint, scoring 50+ points in his three seasons. After being traded all over the place (and having a horse eat out of the Stanley Cup, I’m not joking), he eventually ended up in the broadcast booth with “the great Pat Foley”, dishing up excellent mannerisms for all you young hockey players out there. He’s been tremendously tremendous both on the ice and in the booth, and definitely deserves some soft serve ice cream.

P – Patrick Kane:
(EDIT: All of this was written before the rape investigation against Kane was made public. It was published about 3 hours before any investigation of any type was made known. If any of these allegations (given the complete media lockdown by everyone involved, many have popped up in the are true, he should face full repercussions for his actions and shouldn't be a highly paid famous hockey player anymore. However, I'll leave the article untouched at the moment)

Possibly the best American player, well, ever. Kaner has been instrumental, along with his longtime pal Jonathan Toews, in bringing hockey back to the forefront in Chicago. Kane was the #1 draft pick in 2007, and has become one of those players to be the top pick and completely turn a franchise around. I like to say he was a steal at #1 (the #1 pick the year before? Erik Johnson, when St Louis could have selected Toews. Thanks for your ineptitude, STL!). Just three short years later, the team would go from pretty complete irrelevance to winning the greatest trophy in all of sports, and who else but Patrick Kane would put the puck in the net for what is the most important goal in Chicago Blackhawks history?

Don’t worry about Kimmo Timonen, the player Kane waltzes around. Not only does he embarrass players of every caliber, but Kimmo eventually won a Stanley Cup, in large part due to Patrick Kane. In a section of the Blackhawks One Goal II book, written after the 2013 Stanley Cup, Eddie Olczyk wrote that Kane had already deserved to have #88 retired, in that time he’s only gone on to 2 more conference finals, another Stanley Cup, and, had it not been for an unfortunate injury, a possible Hart Trophy season in 2014-15.

Q – Quenneville’s Moustache, Joel: Really, who else could occupy the Q spot but Q and his glorious, glorious, tweeting moustache? Since taking over behind the bench of the team in 2008, Joel Quenneville has led the Blackhawks to over 300 victories, 3 Stanley Cups, 5 conference final appearances, 2 Winter Classics, and infinity plus 1 line combinations. With 50 more wins than the next closest coach, and third all time (only about 30 away from second), Q is the best coach in all of hockey, and his moustache should get a banner when he (and it) retire from coaching.

R – Roenick, Jeremy: Personal story: Jeremy Roenick was my favorite player growing up, mainly because he’s awesome as all get out in NHL 95. I think I got him to score over 100 goals in a season, with only 5 minute periods. Why? Because he’s the best. Was I very very upset (pissed off is too harsh a word to use to describe a 6 year old’s reactions) when he was traded to Phoenix? You bet. Do I still think it’s one of the worst decisions the team made? Also yes. He was an unfortunate causality of the dark ages of penny pinching. He was traded for Craig Mills (who played 27 Blackhawks games), the pick used to draft Ty Jones (8 games) and Alexi Zhamnov. Roenick would go on to be one of the more prolific players of the 90s all the way to the 2004-5 NHL lockout, and should be in the Hall of Fame.

S – Seventeen Seconds: One of the few moments that can enter lore immediately, in 2013, during game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, with a little over 1:20 left, the Blackhawks were down a goal to the Boston Bruins. If they’d lost this game it would be back to Chicago for game 7. However, there was no game 7 in Chicago, as Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scored two goals 17 seconds apart to win the game 3-2 and deflate Bostonians faster than Tom Brady deflates a football. Boston attempted to score an equalizer, but it was too late, and one of the most dominant seasons in recent hockey history ended with the Blackhawks taking home the Cup.

T – Television Blackout: This, of course, ties into the Dark Ages up in D. After the Hawkvision disaster in 1992-93 (mentioned under H), Bill Wirtz decided to keep the Blackhawks off of television, ostentatiously believing that it would keep people from actually going to the United Center. Theoretically, at times away games would be televised (and any national broadcasts, which were infrequent for many reasons I’ll explain) however most were not picked up, or if they were, may have been on alternate channels (I do not remember seeing a single Blackhawks game listed until the end of the blackout). Wirtz supposedly believed that keeping the games off TV would force people to go to the arena to watch home games, but instead they stayed home and found something else to watch, and pay attention to. The blackout was in my opinion the largest reason for the community apathy surrounding the team during the Dark Ages. Without being able to see the games, the team was outside of the forefront of people’s minds. Sure they could find the radio to listen, but not many people listen to the radio at home in the 21st century.

The blackout begat less ticket sales, which begat less spending, which begat a worse team, which meant that the team wouldn’t be nationally televised (ESPN and Vs. did not have nearly as many games as NBCSN, and they only chose popular teams or playoff games, and the Hawks didn’t make the playoffs for about 10 years).

U – United Center: The greatest building in all of sports, the UC was built in 1994 across the street from the old Chicago Stadium (it’s now the parking lot). It’s housed some of the best teams in basketball and hockey, opening with the Jordan Bulls (the greatest basketball team ever), and now housing the Toews Hawks, it’s seen improvements in the past 20 years, and is still one of the best places to catch a game. Even if ticket prices are exorbitantly expensive.

V – Vezina Trophy: 10 times has the winner of the Vezina trophy been a Blackhawk. Starting with Charlie Gardiner, 8 different Blackhawks have won the trophy since its inception, 7 in the previous format, and 1 (Ed Belfour, twice) in the current, voted on format. The previous format allowed the goalie(s) from the team with the lowest GAA to win the trophy, it was replaced with the Jennings Trophy, which Pat Foley will tell you is VERY IMPORTANT, AND COREY CRAWFORD IS AN ELITE GOALIE BECAUSE HE’S WON IT TWICE. Ed Belfour also won that three times, including the two seasons he won the Veznia. So yeah, the Blackhawks have a long history of great goaltending.

W – Wirtzes (Wirtzs? Wirtzi?) Oh you knew this would come up. The Wirtz family has been central figures in the history of the Blackhawks for three generations now. Arthur Wirtz was originally a partner in the Red Wings (suck) ownership, and, along with James Norris, bought the Blackhawks to use as effectively a farm team. In the same league. A league with only 6 teams in it. After Norris’ death, Wirtz divested himself from the terrible, no good, very bad team and headed to Chicago full time, helping to build the franchise that won the 1961 Stanley Cup (fun fact: this was the only time that Detroit (sucks), Toronto, or Montreal didn’t win the Cup during the Original Six era of 1943-67). Eventually he also got some suckers to buy his decaying building in St Louis in exchange for allowing expansion to happen (see C for Checkerdome). Arthur, almost as much as his son, was very frugal with his sports franchise, and that frugality is one of the reasons that the great Bobby Hull left the team to go to Winnipeg. He led the team until his death in 1983, where he was fully succeeded by…

Bill Wirtz, who had a legitimate position in the organization even before his father’s death, and was not only in charge of the Blackhawks, but was leading the Board of Governors in the 80s. In this capacity he was remotely involved in one of the most interesting events in NHL history. In the conference finals of the Wales Conference in 1984, New Jersey Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld was upset with various calls made by Don Koharski and followed him into the tunnel after a game berating him. Koharski fell, and Schoenfeld said that "You tripped and fell you fat pig! Have another doughnut! Have another doughnut!” Schoenfeld was suspended for the next game, but the Devils went to court to have an injunction made allowing him to play. In protest, the officials refused to work the game, forcing the NHL to use replacement refs for the game. Making matters more complicated, John Ziegler, the NHL president, couldn’t be found (he was supposedly breaking his son out of a cult. No I didn’t make that up). Bill Wirtz, as leader of the Board of Governors, said that Ziegler had left him in charge (as per this Tribune article: (

And that’s not even getting into the stuff he did TO the team! His extreme thriftiness led the team to shed all promising players they drafted/picked up as youngsters, leading to the Dark Ages above. He refused to allow games on TV, leading to the alienation of the fanbase. Simply put, he did everything to make the Blackhawks as unpopular as possible, either purposefully or unconsciously. The only reason players like Toews, Kane, Keith and Seabrook aren’t in other jerseys is that he passed in 2007, and the control of the club went to his son…

Rocky Wirtz has singlehandedly revitalized the franchise. That’s no hyperbole. I know I’ve probably overstated some people’s importance in this article, but Rocky has, through his actions and the actions of the people he hired, turned the Chicago Blackhawks from a forgotten relic to the hottest ticket in town. He’s opened up the wallet, and the franchise has greatly benefitted. His actions in increasing the popularity of the Blackhawks have helped the NHL as a whole, as telecasts and attendance have increased, in no small part to Blackhawks fans tuning in and willing to travel (think of how empty Nashville would be if Blackhawks fans didn’t go there?). Put simply, in 2004, ESPN’s Ultimate Team rankings had the Blackhawks at 120th, out of 120, past 119th in Fan Relations, Ownership, Affordability, Stadium Experience, Players, and Title Track. In 2014, they were 10th, in the top 5 in Fan Relations, Ownership, Players, and Title Track, and in the top 10 in Stadium Experience and Coaching (affordability is not great though, but they’re the second highest major market, soooo). In 10 years the team has improved astronomically, in every sense. They’ve gotten better on the ice, off the ice, and Rocky, along with the braintrust he’s installed (led by John McDonough, whose importance can’t be mentioned enough) has made great strides to rebuild bridges that were burnt by the previous administration. The upcoming Stadium Series alumni game in Minnesota will have players like Ed Belfour and Jeremy Roenick playing, after they were shown the door in their playing ages, and had poor relations due to that.

Yes, many of the things Rocky has done have been fairly obvious (put games on the TV station you own 20% of, sign super amazing players you drafted to long term contracts, don’t be a dick to your customers). But the fact that he installed these policies so quickly after taking charge, and that the previous leadership hadn’t, makes him one of the most beneficial owners to his club in all of sports. By the fact that their time with the club lasts longer, owners and executives have a longer term impact on a franchise than your average player will, so hopefully the Blackhawks can continue the success, both on the ice and in the community, that Rocky has brought them to in the past seven years.
Two of the Wirtzes are in the Hall of Fame, Rocky is not.

X – eXtra sessions: Of late, meaning in the current dynasty, the Blackhawks have been great in overtime, mainly in the playoffs. From the triple overtime thriller against Boston in 2013, to the (also triple overtime, eventually) headbutt goal from Andrew Shaw that totally should have counted, the Blackhawks have been great in the extra session in the postseason, one reason why they have won so many titles in the recent era.

A play so great the Fire sent Shaw a jersey.

Y – Yankees: From the beginning the Blackhawks have had distinctly American roots. The original owner, Frederic McLaughlin named the team after his WWI military unit, the 86th Infantry Division. McLaughlin also strongly believed in American players, and would add as many of them as possible to his team, even though hockey in the US was nowhere near as prolific as it was in Canada (or as it is now). Ever since, the team has had a history of acquiring great American players, players like Tony Amonte, Jeremy Roenick, Chris Chelios, Phil Housley, Olympic hero Jack O’Callahan, and now with the earlier mentioned Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks have been a showcase for some of the best American players ever to play the game.

Z – Zhamnov, Alexi: We end with an enigma. Alexi Zhamnov played the majority of his NHL career in Chicago, coming from Winnipeg as the centerpiece return in the Jeremy Roenick trade (the trade happened during the offseason that the Jets moved to Phoenix, so Roenick never played in Winnipeg, and Zhamnov never played in Arizona). He played well, racking up between 50 and 70 points each season, but never well enough to help a mediocre at best team become relevant. Of course, this was also during the darkest of the dark times, so he would have to have shone brighter than a literal star to be noticed in Chicago. He was always along that second tier of players, great, but not superstars. Plus, of course, he is a Russian, so that makes it that much more difficult to become well loved in North America as a hockey player (other than Ovechkin and Malkin, how many Russian superstars can you think of?).

So there you have it, about 90 years of Chicago Blackhawks history condensed into 26 entries. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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