Saturday was a great day, but when the night rolled around, the sobering reality set in. Actually, it should have set in a long time ago, but you know what I mean, right? Until that last second ticks off the season, maybe it doesn’t set in. Yes, the Stanley Cup playoffs will take place without the Chicago Blackhawks for the first time in 10 years. It’s been a decade coming…but it’s finally here.
Where were you in 2008? Well, everybody wasn’t packing the UC yet. The average attendance filled the rink 82% to capacity. You could get tickets for pretty cheap back them too. But that was all about to change. Although this 2007-2008 season ended with no playoffs, it marked the rookie year for two guys you might have heard of. Patrick Kane debuted on October 4th and recorded his first point 2 days later. Jonathan Toews first saw the ice on October 10th, and wasted no time getting his first point, a goal on the same night. Kane notched his on October 19th. Another guy who is near and dear to our hearts recorded his first point on Halloween that year. Dave Bolland was one of those pesky players you loved to have on your side. Some other guys like Keith, Seabrook, and Sharp were settling in. Byfuglien, Hammer, Sopel, Versteeg, Crawford, Brouwer and Burish were all around, while the Hawks added Ben Eager and Andrew Ladd during the season. The team was taking a familiar shape.
The following year, the Blackhawks would make the playoffs for the first time in 6 years. That would be the streak that would continue until right now. That first playoff appearance didn’t end with the Cup, as the Red Wings beat us in five games in the Conference Finals. It was men against boys in that series. But those boys would become men (and end up in Philly..haha) the following year.
Yep, three cups in six years ain’t too shabby. What a magnificent run it’s been. This is why this moment, the right now, is not as bad as it could be. That is why this moment is still pretty damn sad.
As Sharpie played his last home game, and then his final game in Winnipeg on this Saturday night, another piece of the greatest era in Blackhawks history said goodbye. Piece by piece this team has been decimated by moves over the years forced by the salary cap era. It is the punishment for a great team. I still want to list all the ex-Blackhawks playing well in this league still; the guys that were part of that run. Yet, this one was just a simple retirement.
It was kind of fitting. The bringing back of Sharp was trying to ignite that old flame, hoping to help conjure up the successes of years past. The struggles of Sharp were just one representation of this year’s Hawks. But we still love and appreciate them, just like we do with Sharpie.
It’s so hard, to say goodbye, to yesterday.