The Chicago Blackhawks: A Brief History
It began as a typical Friday night: fellow UPchicago writer, Natalie, and I were out with some friends at Social 25. We had managed to secure the last booth near the back of the bar and were well on our way to consuming too many tequila shots when we were told we had to vacate our booth. Normally, we would not have stood for this outrage, but when we were told the Blackhawks were en route to the bar with the Stanley Cup and were going to need our booth, we gladly stepped aside and positioned ourselves right next to the table so as to get a front row view of the champions in all their glory.
The night ended up being a blast: we snapped pics with some players (now ex-player Andrew Ladd was the nicest… sigh), Nat poured beer into Lord Stanley’s cup, and the bar went crazy. However, a year or two earlier, I never would have given up my prime seat for a bunch of toothless hockey players (nor would I probably have been required to). It’s been a long road for the Blackhawks, and their June 2010 Stanley Cup win is one of the high points on the roller coaster that has been the team’s history.
Founded in 1926, the Blackhawks, named by original owner Frederic McLaughlin after a historical Sauk Indian chief, are among the original six teams of the National Hockey League. Like the Cubs, the Blackhawks were also rumored to be cursed. When McLaughlin fired the first head coach, Pete Muldoon, Muldoon allegedly placed a curse on the team (appropriately called the Curse of Muldoon), claiming the Blackhawks would never again finish in first place. This curse seems to have been less successful than that of the Billy Goat, since the team has gone on to win four Stanley Cups and place first multiple times. However, this may be due in part to the fact that Jim Coleman, the writer who first reported the curse, later admitted that he made it up to bolster his story.
The first Cup win occurred in 1934 and then again in 1938 after an astonishingly bad season. Upon McLaughlin’s death in 1944, ownership of the team shifted to the team’s then president Bill Tobin. However, James E. Norris, owner of the Blackhawk’s home, Chicago Stadium, was actually running the show. This proved to be a conflict of interest as Norris was also the owner of the Detroit Red Wings. For the next several years, Norris all but abandoned the Hawks, instead putting all his energy and resources into the Red Wings.
Norris’s son, James D. Norris, along with Arthur Wirtz decided to rebuild the team when they took over ownership. They recruited promising players such as Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, and Glenn Hall and put ex-Detroit coach and GM Tommy Ivan in the position of Hawks’ GM. The end result was a triumphant third Stanley Cup win in 1961. Though they made it to the playoffs countless more times, the Blackhawks were not able to regain the Stanley cup until 2010.
Throughout the 49-year Stanley Cup drought, the Blackhawks had many ups and downs. In 2004, ESPN proclaimed that the Blackhawks were the “worst franchise in professional sports.” During this time, many Chicagoans felt nothing but indifference toward the team, choosing instead to follow the Chicago Wolves hockey team. However, beginning in 2007, the Hawks began to rebuild their team, their policies, and their image. They formed a partnership with the White Sox in 2008, and on January 1, 2009, the team hosted the NHL Winter Classic at Wrigley Field, a highly publicized and heavily attended event. By the end of the 2009 season, the Blackhawks managed to finish second in their division. And then in June 2010… well we all know what happened then. Here’s hoping that the Blackhawks can continue their rise in both the ranks of professional hockey and Chicagoans’ hearts.
For more in-depth Blackhawks history, check out Gene’s Blackhawk’s testimony here.