(Photo: Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports)
I took a little time to wallow.
We’ve had our hardships over the years–the Blackhawks and I–on the quest for Lord Stanley.
As a Chicago sports fan, I’d become accustomed to disappointing season after season. I was 2 years old when the Bears last took a Super Bowl, still pretty young (and not incredibly interested) when the Bulls three-peated, twice; and the annual mantra of my beloved Chicago Cubs is “wait until next year.”
Besides, those other teams don’t do for me what hockey does. From the chills-inducing anthem to the Chelsea Dagger goal dance to the most exciting playoffs for the best trophy in all of sports, I was more than a little heartbroken to see it end too early this year.
The Western Conference Final was an emotional ride.
To be one goal away from the Stanley Cup Final in an overtime victory between two pretty evenly-matched teams, and to come back from a 3-1 deficit only to see “my guys” go home, well, I needed time to wallow.
The end of hockey season is tough enough.
The Los Angeles Kings were a force to be reckoned with. To beat them and progress to the Final, the Blackhawks would have had to come out hard and play hard to the finish. By falling behind in the series, then giving up a lead in Game 7, they put themselves in the position where a wonky shot from Kings defenseman Alec Martinez just might knock them out of the run for the Cup. Martinez would go on to score the Cup-winner against the Rangers in another high-stakes overtime.
Much of this season for the Blackhawks was too little, too late. They had difficulty maintaining leads all season, a trouble that was particularly burdensome for the team when it mattered the most.
It isn’t that the team is lacking in talent.
They have, I’ll argue, the best captain in the league with Jonathan Toews. The 2013 Champs’ team core stayed intact, with Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and veteran Marian Hossa providing offensive leadership; and Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Brent Seabrook showing depth on defense.
So, where did things go wrong?
I don’t want to blame the Blackhawks’ locker room guards/public relations staff for this; but, really, who else could be at fault?
This has to be way worse than the Curse of the Billy Goat.
Now, I have to survive summer–an even scarier time as a hockey fan–the time of year when players become free agents, are traded, or simply retire. Saying goodbye to a trophy that could come back another season is one thing. Saying goodbye to “teammates” is quite another.
Ultimately, I’ll get by.