Wednesday, June 26, 2013

6.26.13 Hero of the Day: Chicago Blackhawks

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Name: Chicago Blackhawks
Age: 87
Occupation: NHL team
Last Seen: Chicago, IL
Awarded For: being hockey's best


Chicago is one miserable sports town.

The Bulls haven't been hot since the days of Air Jordan.

The Bears are always hit-or-miss, and their "new" stadium sucks.

The White Sox sucks.

Last, but not least, The Cubs will never, ever, ever win a World Series. Not with a .42 record.

But hey! Their hockey team's pretty good!

On Monday night, the Chicago Backhawks won their second Stanley Cup in four years, beating the Boston Bruins at their home arena. The fact that the 'Hawks won is quite astonishing considering that ten years ago, they were the laughing stock of all the NHL. In 2003, their average attendance was only 14,700. Now, they lead the league with 21,775.

Even though I'm a Red Wing fan, I'm appreciative of the Hawks, considering how quickly they have turned around in the past few years. The team was first owned by Fredric McLaughlin, a successful coffee seller and Major in the Army in WWI. During his ownership, the Blackhawks won two Stanleys in 1934 and '38.

However, Major McLaughlin died of heart disease in 1944. So, his estate sold the team to Bill Tobin, the team's president. However, Tobin was a puppet for Red Wings owner James Norris, who owned Chicago Stadium. During Norris' "ownership" of the Hawks, the team only made the playoffs twice and was one of the worst teams in the NHL. Every time the Hawks had a good player, he was automatically traded to the Wings. However, Norris' ownership of the Hawks ended when he died in 1952 and his son purchased the team, fixing his dad's problems. Under the younger Norris's ownership, they picked up legends Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita. They won the Cup in 1961, but that was it for championships for a long, long time.

Thanks to the NHL's 1967 expansion and competition from the World Hockey Association, which took several Hawks like Hull away from the team, the team spent years struggling. Even worse, they were owned by William "Dollar Bill" Wirtz, a man who was more concerned with his pocketbook over keeping players and fans happy.

Under Wirtz's ownership, the Blackhawks were a hated team. Wirtz did not allow home games to be locally televised, claiming that it would be unfair for attendees of the game. Team players all asked to leave the team and be traded. Even legends like Hull didn't want to be associated with the team. Many critics and ESPN called Dollar Bill one of the worst owners in sports.

Then, in 2007, Bill Wirtz died and his son, Rocky took over. Under Rocky's aegis, he reversed his dad's decisions, such as allowing Comcast to televise home games and investing in good players like captain Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Almost immediately, the Blackhawks, once the laughing stock of the NHL, became the hottest ticket in the Windy City. In 2010, after 49 years, Lord Stanley's Cup returned to Chicago. The process was repeated again on Monday.

True, this was a shortened season thanks to the lockout, The Blackhawks deserved it. Since the days of Fredric McLaughlin, they have a good owner in Rocky Wirtz. Hell, I'm starting to like Wirtz better than the Ilitches, especially since they're now buddies with the DeVoses (I cringe that the Red Wings are now "presented by Amway") and the fact that the Wings have deteriorated over the past five years, only BARELY making the playoffs. Then again, the Tigers are hot!

In the end, the Hawks won, fair and square. Toews has some good years left on him, and Rocky will make sure that his team will not enter the same fate his dad made it.

But, there's next year... :)
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