But by then, Davie and I had bailed as Hawks fans. And we weren't the only ones. Frustrated by the poor management and its disinterest in the fans, people who loved this team couldn't bear to watch anymore what Bill Wirtz and company were doing to it. Almost to a (wo)man, every Blackhawk fan had the same thought: there was no hope for the team as long as Wirtz owned it.
On September 26, 2007, Bill Wirtz died, and the reins of the Chicago Blackhawks passed to his son, Rocky. Within a month, negotiations were underway to televise home games. Davie and I watched with interest, amazed to see changes happening so soon. Rocky also reached out to make Hull and Mikita "ambassadors" for the team, and worked to restore the pride of the fans. Denis Savard came back as head coach. Pat Foley returned as the Hawks' TV play-by-play announcer. Management changes long desired by Hawks fans were made quickly, and smarter personnel decisions started to affect the quality of the team's play.
The Hawks had missed the playoffs (which in hockey means being in the bottom half of the standings) for six straight years, but in the following season they were good enough to make it to the Western Conference Finals (third of four rounds). That was just last year, Blog. It only took them one more year to become Stanley Cup Champions.
The media has made a pretty big deal of the fact that that Hawks were suffering the longest championship draught in the NHL at 49 years. But what non-fans don't know is the depth of misery Blackhawk fans had endured. Older and younger fans alike had watched favorite players dispatched, and the team they loved sink into such neglect that even winning seasons seemed hopeless. A Stanley Cup? How could we ever hope to see that trophy in Chicago again?
In fact, Blog, we'll probably party about it all next year.
I close with this awesome final 45-second spot from the "History Will Be Made" campaign the NHL used this year. It pretty much says it all....