About a week ago, the seventh anniversary of the Blackhawks’ 2010 Stanley Cup triumph passed us by.
June 9th, 2010.
Every Blackhawks fan in the world remembers exactly where they were on this night. It’s unbelievable to me that seven whole years have passed. It feels like it was a lifetime ago in an entirely different world. With each passing year it fades further into the past. But regardless, it is night will be burned into our memories forever.
Oddly enough I’ve always felt like 2010 gets pushed to the back burner when it comes to the Hawks’ recent championships (it sounds so dumb, I know). It’s probably because it’s technically the “oldest.” 2013 is remembered because of “17 Seconds.” 2015 is remembered because it was won at home. And then there’s 2010, the one with the awkward goal that ended 49 years of waiting.
It was the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school. The day of the game was basically spent counting the hours until puck drop. The fact that the Blackhawks had a chance to win the freaking Stanley Cup was almost incomprehensible. For my entire childhood, the Hawks winning the Cup was kind of that thing you always jokingly talked and dreamed about.
The Blackhawks of my youth were a complete dumpster fire. Countless nights were spent listening to them lose on the radio. Every year it was some other team, some other jersey, hoisting the Cup. “Well, someday I guess it could happen” was a common thought, but nothing about the product at the time backed up that pipe dream. I literally made a tin foil Tupperware replica Stanley Cup when I was eight. In my mind, that was the closest the Hawks were ever going to get. Winning a tin foil trophy in my driveway.
My Dad got home from work early and told me that we were going to go to my Uncle Bono’s house to watch the game (the place where we have had massive watch parties over the last seven years. It started on this night).
Here I am, 16 years old, contemplating how my life of Hawks heartbreak could finally end tonight. Then there’s my Dad. Who listened to them choke away Game 7 of the 1973 Final on the radio in a Little League dugout. Was in the Stadium when they lost Game 4 of the 1992 Final to Pittsburgh. And then lived like the rest of us through the subsequent dark ages. I’m sure he was an absolute mess.
I distinctly remember the drive over to their house, mainly because we were listening to the pregame show on the radio. Either the host or a caller brought up the notion that Hawks fans who had tickets to Game 7 should be rooting for them to lose tonight so that they could watch them potentially hoist the Cup at home in the UC. I’m shocked we didn’t get in an accident. My Dad and I were apoplectic. “HELL NO, ARE YOU NUTS?” That literally happened to Detroit a year before, and they lost Game 7. So that entirely ludicrous discussion didn’t help the nerves at all.
The game itself is sort of a blur outside of the big moments. I do remember all of us thinking out loud about how important it would be to score first. Enter Dustin Byfuglien.
The Flyers scored twice to take a 2-1 lead, one of them off a Duncan Keith blown tire. The words “here we go” may have entered my mind. But these Hawks battled back, tying the game with Sharp’s 4-on-4 goal in the second, and taking the lead on a Hjalmarsson slap shot tipped in by Ladd.
3-2 Blackhawks going into the third period.
This is when it finally hits you. The nauseous, anxious feeling knowing your team is just 20 minutes away from winning the Stanley Cup. It was a feeling I had never felt before as a Hawks fan. I’ve felt it plenty of times since, but this was the first. My heart was in my throat, stomach in knots, reminding myself to breathe and blink. I wasn’t alone.
All I remember about the third period was that the Flyers kept coming in waves and waves. The puck would be in the Hawks zone and we’re all begging for a whistle or a clear to just get a few seconds to breathe. Philly player shoots, body clenches, Niemi makes the save and covers, whistle, take a breath. Rinse and repeat.
With just over four minutes to go, the Flyers bring the puck up on the rush, Ville Leino weaves his way past a few Hawks, gets below the goal line, and throws it to the slot, it takes a few bounces, off Marian Hossa, off Scott Hartnell… and into the net.
The air was sucked out of the room, which didn’t matter because none of us were breathing or moving anyways.
The tying goal was like a gut punch. Here we were, deep down inside, feeling like Philly was probably going to score to tie it. But as time goes on you simultaneously become more and less confident. It’s so weird.
Over the next few minutes the Hawks were in complete scramble and survival mode. The Flyers nearly took the lead on two different occasions, but Niemi stood tall to get the game to overtime. The Hawks had survived the onslaught and now they could regroup and settle down.
Our group can be a little-stitious with our watch parties. Before OT I remember we turned the TV volume up to 61, the last year the Hawks had won the Stanley Cup. You’re all welcome.
Overtime nearly ended as soon as it started with Keith’s blue line turnover right at the beginning of OT. At first, Richards nearly stole it for a breakaway, then Niemi botched it in the corner, Richards centered it, and a bouncing puck found Giroux who shoveled it to the net from point blank range… I thought “that’s it, we’re going to Game 7.” But again Niemi came back across to make the save. Exhale.
Apparently the game went on for another four minutes. I couldn’t tell you a single thing that happened in that span.
All of a sudden, Brian Campbell makes a great play to keep the puck in at the blue line, and shovels a pass to Kane along the boards. Kane is one on one with Kimmo Timonen above the left circle. He makes a couple of head fakes before darting left, gliding his way past Timonen and beneath the circle, and then snaps a low wrist shot on goal.
Millions of Blackhawks fans across the world will tell people for the rest of their lives, “I knew it was in right away.” They could be telling the truth, or they could be lying.
I’m telling you here that I thought it was in right away. My Uncle Bono and I leapt from our seats and started screaming and jumping. We were the only ones in the group. It might have been the weirdly distinct sound the puck made, or maybe all of our pent-up energy gave way to an explosion of adrenaline, but we knew it was in.
Kane starts skating down the ice, players are coming off the bench, equipment is flying everywhere, Kane jumps into Niemi’s arms, and a dogpile ensues. All while no one is really 100% certain that it was a goal. Doc and Eddie were clearly not sure, many of the players were glancing back at the officials as they celebrated, and a few of them didn’t even jump into the pile. Total chaos.
This view from a Flyer fan in the stands gives you a real interesting look at it outside of the broadcast. It’s clear from video replay, and from interviews after the game, that Patrick Kane knew it was in right away. I’m not sure many others in the arena did.
Our party probably wasn’t alone in the fact that we had a delayed celebration, but were really also waiting to see an official replay. I knew in my gut that the puck went in, but you’re just never quite sure.
Then NBC shows the replay. Bedlam.
It’s hard to put into words the feeling of that moment. You wait you’re whole life for something so great and then it finally happens. I was more in shock than anything else. Giddy would also be an accurate description. The Chicago Blackhawks had just won the Stanley Cup! For the first time in almost a half century!
I look at my Dad and my Uncle Bono, who waited their whole lives for this, experienced the lowest of lows in ’73, and being there in ’92. This time around? Pure elation. I remember both of them exclaiming that they were “glad they did it in the old home whites.”
The next thing we know Gary Bettman is handing the Stanley Cup to Jonathan Toews among a chorus of boos from Philly fans. Toews grabs it for the photo op, shakes it away from the commish, and lifts it over his head with a “YEAH BAYBAY!” for good measure.
For the first time in my life the player beneath the Cup was wearing a Blackhawks jersey.
Toews hands the Cup off to Marian Hossa, who had lost in the Final the previous two years. It was the obvious choice, and maybe my favorite moment from it all. With each passing of the Cup, I remember our group would literally scream the name of the player who got it next. This went on for a good while as the celebration lasted well into the night.
Side note: It’s funny to think back now, but 2010 was still very much a pre massive social media world. Twitter wasn’t what it is today, so Facebook was basically it. I had an “old” LG slide phone (no iphone), unable to even check Facebook if I wanted to. I remember texting literally every contact in my phone after the game, probably in all caps. I sound like a dinosaur now, but I remember thinking ‘I can’t wait to hop on the computer and check Facebook and see what statuses people are posting about the Hawks when I get home.’ No Twitter explosion, no Snapchat stories of people celebrating. Amazing how different the celebration process was just three years later in 2013. We also didn’t take any pictures, which is unfortunate in retrospect.
My dad and I left somewhere between 11 and midnight. We got in the car and had a little father/son moment of celebration. Like most kids, I’m a fan of my teams because he was first, and to share with him that moment, and all the rest since, is what being a sports fan with your dad is all about.
Anyways, we both agreed that we had to go drive to Dick’s to buy some championship merch. I mean, the Hawks just won the Cup, why the hell not? So we drove over to the store, finding the parking lot pretty abandoned at this point. When we walked up to the front doors an employee was starting the process of closing up for the night. Through the glass we begged and pleaded for him to let us in real quick. After going back and forth he finally unlocked the door and let us in. They were out of hats, which was the No. 1 item on my list. We grabbed shirts for us, my mom and my sister, and some other random items as well.
It wasn’t until around one in the morning when we arrived home, only to turn on CSN to watch any continuing or replay coverage they had going. I don’t remember when we went to bed, but it was late. There’s no way I would have fallen asleep with all the adrenaline anyways.
A few days later a massive throng of the red and black faithful descended on downtown for the Hawks’ victory parade that would go through the loop. We took the train into town, the four of us. Going with friends would have been fun, but that’s a moment looking back that I don’t regret being with my family.
We somehow managed to snag a spot right in the front row. Like, literally right on the guard rail. The ticker tape and confetti was already falling well before the buses arrived. We could slowly hear the roars getting louder and louder as the team got closer.
Then, they arrived. Each bus carrying Hawks dignitaries, alums, coaches, and players. Finally, the Stanley Cup. We were so close I felt like I could have touched it. It was shimmering in Kaner’s hands, and I somehow was able to snap some really good pictures as it passed.
Then everyone poured onto the street behind the last bus, creating an organic fan parade. We walked for a few blocks with the masses before peeling off, deciding to skip the rally. There was confetti everywhere, it was just a sea of red, white and black, and there were people everywhere.
I really believe the story of the 2010 Blackhawks, and our story as fans, is one worth telling. It’s one of those moments in sports, and in life, that you look at in the context of everything from before led up to it, and then all that’s new followed. For Hawks fans it’s the central moment of everything we’ve experienced with the team.
Our hockey lives were never going to be the same after 2010. I remember that night thinking, “there’s no way it can get better than this.” Well…