Chicago Blackhawks on Cover of This Week’s Sports IllustratedPosted: March 12, 2013
Led by Hart Trophy favorite Patrick Kane, young captain Jonathan Toews and a ragtag group of role players, the Chicago Blackhawks’ historic 21-0-3 start to the lockout shortened season captivated a city and reinvigorated the beleaguered NHL. This week’s Sports Illustrated, which features the Blackhawks on the cover, examines the resilient team that has helped bring hockey back. This is the third time the Blackhawks have appeared on an SI cover.
The ‘Hawks, who’s win streak finally came to an end last Friday, have sprinted out to the best NHL start since 2006-07 and done so in a compressed schedule that has featured numerous close wins. Along the way, Brian Cazeneuve writes on how they’ve reinvigorated the spirits of Chicago fans still upset over the departure of key players from the 2010 Stanley cup team (a sign at a recent game read: “#23 isn’t just about Michael anymore”) and shown the resilience of the NHL (arenas are filled to 96.7% of capacity since the season started, and 109.4% in Chicago.) Cazeneuve says: “And just like that—from completely locked out to totally locked in—Chicago has given the league a much needed boost.” (PAGE 39)
GM Stan Bowman headed the revitalization process prior to the season by adding gritty role players instead of marquee free agents. Bowman’s faith has allowed former castoff players like Daniel Carcillo (the man nicknamed “Car Bomb” who scored a game-winner with 49.3 seconds left to extend the streak against the Avalanche last week) and goaltenders Corey Crawford and Ray Emery to thrive.
“The Miami Heat can win 15, 16 games in a row, but how many teams can really win an NBA Title? Three? Four? I mean, the Kings won the Cup as an eight seed last year. In our league, if the 30th team beats the first team one night, it’s not a big deal. No game is a gimme,” said Kane (PAGE 36)
No player has stepped up more in the streak than Kane, who was previously known more for his off-the-ice antics than his amazing skills on it. Cazeneuve writes that Kane used the lockout to develop as a person, moving to an apartment with his mother in Biel, Switzerland, while he played in the Swiss League. “The biggest thing about this year is that I didn’t want to disappoint my parents…Hurting myself was one thing; hurting people close to me woke me up.” (PAGE 39)
Despite the surging streak, Toews and the Blackhawks know it’s not how you start, but how you’re playing once the Stanley Cup playoffs come around.
“The wins now are great, but we know they won’t mean anything if we can’t reset our sights on winning in June.” (PAGE 39)