Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp was merely participating in an off season workout Wednesday afternoon when it abruptly came to a halt after he was told he had to come off the ice.
Sharp had to find a dressing room quick and dress like his last name. The Blackhawks had a press conference set up to announce a new five-year extension with their leading goal scorer from last season. I guess that’s a break you’ll take when you’re an athlete.
The 29-year-old do-it-all, who notched a career-high 71 points and 34 goals last year, is sleeping better and breathing a sigh of relief. Contract negotiations won’t spill into next season and avoiding that distraction was key for the Hawks, who solidified their core group – Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook – at least through the 2014-2015 season.
Gee, don’t you wish you had that kind of warmth from the other Chicago teams?
When you ask a Chicagoan what kind of sports town the city is, you’ll likely hear it’s a Bears town. And people look forward to September as the sports calender year flips to a new year. After what’s gone down in “Hawkville” this summer, may be our calenders should begin in October. It’s when hockey season begins.
It’s only the right thing to do at this point with our Chicago teams. Forget the Bears. And the Cubs. And the Sox. The Blackhawks are the only franchise geared to do what’s right and put a product out there that wants to win right now.
Their latest off season moves warrant that belief. Deals for defensemen Steve Montador, Sean O’Donnell, Sami Lepisto, forwards Daniel Carcillo, Brett McLean, Andrew Brunette, and Jamal Mayers all seem like moves that will super glue the Hawks back together from a wild and lethargic 2010-2011 campaign, a year that witnessed the Hawks go down to Vancouver in seven games in the first round of the playoffs in April.
And while the Hawks forced a Game 7 after being down 0-3 the overtime loss to the Canucks proved the team needed to re-tool. In a free agent frenzy, the Hawks did just that, passing with flying colors and got the grit and energy it needed. And its spectrum of colors only brightened with the urge to resign players like Sharp, Corey Crawford, Viktor Stalberg and Michael Frolik, among the deals for the core players made in the past two seasons. Moves in which other Chicago teams haven’t made in years. And wherever this spectrum ends, you might be able to find Lord Stanley’s Cup waiting.
What fans didn’t realize after GM Stan Bowman traded away fan favorites Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager and Kris Versteeg is that the salary cap starred them down right in the eye, even if they were the Cup champs or not.
Fans were disgusted but didn’t realize Bowman had his hands tied. They fell in love with that mold of players but instead of blowing the whole wad and keeping fans happy when he knew he couldn’t, Bowman was smart and let the Blackhawks ride with the team they had for one year until he could revamp. Most teams it takes years.
It’s proven so far to be huge. Now the Hawks seem to be a Cup favorites again. He’s steered away from the routes Bears GM Jerry Angelo and Cubs GM Jim Hendry (because he’s smarter than them) and in essence will probably break records for preseason attendance, as the Hawks did so last year. Bowman might be the smartest GM and his mentality for the job earns top praise.
It’s a mentality Cubs and Sox fans wish their GM’s had going into this season. Ken Williams tries to show it, but his trades merely bark more than they bite. Hendry, on the other hand, seems to be lost in 2003. All the while, Jerry Angelo trades away Greg Olsen, signs unproductive Cowboys players from last season and lets center Olin Kreutz walk, moves that has fans scratching their heads wondering. And that’s regardless of the Bears NFC championship appearance-disappearance last season.
The only team to give the Hawks a run for their money is Derrick Rose’s Bulls, the team they share the United Center with. But with an off season lockout in full swing and talk the NBA could see the entire 2011-2012 season cancelled, the Bulls take second place. That’s not forgetting the signings Gar Forman made last season and the output the team provided – 62 wins, a Central Division championship, an Eastern Conference Final appearance and Derrick Rose’s MVP.
But what overwhelmingly adds to the idea of “Hawkeytown” is that the Hawks have a recent championship to hold high. It’s believed Lord Stanley’s Cup is by far the toughest to win. It took the Hawks 49 years to do so but the Cup was back in Chicago last year and besides the White Sox 2005 World Series championship, you have to go back to 1998 when Jordan’s Bulls last won a major championship.
In terms of championships, the Hawks, who were in the cellar and considered a joke sports-wide before the lockout in 2005 are the only ones who can say in recent time they were called champions. And they’re favored to do it again. From the cellar to the top, the Hawks won it before the Cubs and Bears, teams with the longest Chicago championships droughts.
While it is sad Chicago cannot be like Boston where you win a championship every year, the Hawks can start a trend. They can rekindle that championship flare and hope the others in Chicago can rinse and repeat.
Just getting GM’s like Bowman and proven players like Sharp seems to be real tough these days for the Bears, Sox and Cubs.
Especially the Bears.
I’m not sure about you, but I think being inside an arena watching a team win games instead of standing in the cold watching a team without the assurance of winning looks a lot more promising.
Ask Patrick Sharp, he’s going to assure you for five more years. Can Roy Williams do that?