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They have a chance to stand alone, together, atop Blackhawk history.
Center Jonathan Toews and winger Patrick Kane were both in their third years in the NHL when they played pivotal roles three years ago in the winning of the Hawks' first Stanley Cup in almost a half century.
Center Stan Mikita and left wing Bobby Hull were in their second and fourth years respectively when they were key contributors to that previous title in 1961.
Mikita and Hull went on to both score more than 500 goals for the Hawks (although the amazing Golden Jet did it in about a half-dozen fewer seasons). But they never won another Cup.
They made the finals together in 1971 but lost to the Canadiens. And then in 1972 Hull, fed up with dealing with penurious owners "Dollar" Bill Wirtz and his dad Arthur, bolted to the Winnipeg Jets of the then-new World Hockey Association.
Mikita went to another Cup final in 1973 but the Hawks lost that one as well, against, of course, the Canadiens.
Mikita and Hull's careers and Toews and Kane's run may have happened decades apart, but they are remarkably similar, so far. Well, similar in terms of playing prominent roles on their respective clubs. Toews is the best leader in the group - he has worn the captain's "C" for five years. Pierre Pilote wore the "C" for the Hawks through most of the '60s.
And Hull was by far the best performer. He became the first NHL player ever to score more than 50 goals in a season in 1966, finishing with 54. And then he bested that record by four in 1969. In that season he also assisted on 49 tallies for an amazing 107 total points. In all, Hull led the NHL in scoring seven times in the '60s.
Games featuring him flying down the wing and blasting fearsome slapshots with a stick that eventually forced rule-makers to limit curvature with a rule named after him - those contests were absolutely the best shows in town.
I was born in Chicago in 1966 and so I don't really remember Hull playing for the Hawks. I have vague recollections of Lloyd "There's a shot . . . and a goal!" Pettit singing the praises of Mikita. But it is the names of other players from those mid- to late-'70s teams like Pit Martin, Jim Pappin and Keith Magnuson that spark the most memories of evenings spent with my Zenith Royal 300 transistor radio, listening to hockey on, what was it, WIND-AM?
Those teams, of course, could never get over the hump and win it all. And after the appearance in the Finals in 1973, there was only one more (in 1992) before the glorious run in 2010.
Not only are the current Hawks making history just by making the Finals, they are doing so in an era that requires them to persevere far longer than teams needed to in the '60s. People love to talk about "Original Six" teams and I suppose it was quaint to have such a small league, but it also seems unbelievable that the Hawks didn't manage to finish atop that group more frequently before expansion began around 1970.
Another championship sets these Hawks apart, both in their own history and in the current league. The last nine Stanley Cups have been won by nine different teams. Either the Hawks or the Bruins will become the first team to win a second championship in the decade.
Ah yes, the Bruins. Some of those earlier earliest memories involved the Hawks losing to the team from the Hub in the playoffs. That hasn't happened in a long, long time because the teams were re-aligned into different conferences shortly thereafter. Still, maybe on occasion during this series, we'll squint and see Johnny Bucyk or Bobby Orr in Boston's distinctive white or gold uniforms . . . and maybe Terry Ruskowski or Dennis Hull going back the other way for the Hawks.
It all starts tomorrow night.
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on
Mondays Tuesdays. He welcomes your comments.
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