As a Montreal Canadiens fan, I have always had a great appreciation for the Chicago Blackhawks franchise. Like many a student of the game, my hockey awareness and imagination was captivated early on the Hawks' Hull and Mikita, the Red Wings' Gordie Howe and the Bruins' Espo and Orr and all the great players of the NHL's post expansion era.
There was something special about the Blackhawks for me from the beginning. Those beautiful crimson red sweaters with the indian head were as close to the perfect hockey unis as could be imagined. When I saw the Canadiens on television playing in Chicago stadium, the crowds were always raucous and loud, reverberating with an intense hockey atmosphere. The Stadium organ, a legendary piece of musical mayhem itself, pumped the building into a frenzy.
My favorite times in hockey, still to this day, were the 1971 and 1973 Cup finals when the Canadiens and Blackhawks met. They were two superbly built hockey teams, able to run and gun with a great offensive, or ground opponents down with stellar goaltending and a precise shutdown game. Perhaps the reason it was so easy for me to be taken by the Hawks allure was because their great teams at that time reminded me so much of the Canadiens.
Looking at today's Blackhawks team, the excitement it generates truly takes me back to those hockey wonder years. The teams of today and yesteryear seem similar to me and I am thrilled that Chicago has a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
For my own curiousity, as well as for readers, I thought I would look up and list the best moments of the colourful Blackhawks franchise's first fifty years. It's a somewhat forgotten history that includes special moments and unique players. I hope you enjoy it.
1 - March 28, 1929 - The Chicago Stadium opens to the public with a boxing match. The Stadium is the enterprise of Paddy Harmon, a sports promoter, and is built at the cost of $6,000,000. The Blackhawks play their first game in the building on December 15, a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
2 - April 10, 1934 - The Blackhawks win their first Stanley Cup, eight seasons into their existence, defeating the Red Wings in double overtime. Harold "Mush" Marsh is the goal scoring hero. Sixty-four days later, Hawks goalie Charlie Gardiner dies of a brain tumour at age 29.
3 - April 12, 1938 - The Blackhawks win their second Stanley Cup, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fourth game of a best of five by a 4-1 score. In the quarters and semis respectively, the Bill Stewart coached Hawks took out the Montreal Canadiens in a three game set, before sweeping the New York Americans in a best of five. Chicago also beat the odds big time, as owners of a 14-25-9 regular season record, they are the all time biggest longshot winners to claim Lord Stanley's mug.
4 - March 4, 1941 - Chicago goalie Sam LoPresti sets an NHL playoff record by stopping 80 of 83 shots in a 3-2 Boston Bruins win.
5 - March 16, 1941 - Blackhawks bench boss Paul Thompson sets an NHL precedent by being the first coach to pull his goalie - in this case, Sam Lo Presti - for an extra attacker during a regular season game.
6 - February 20, 1944 - The NHL's first "perfect game" is played at Chicago Stadium, a scoreless tie between the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs in which no penalties are called
7 - February 23, 1947 - 20,004 fans witness goalie Emile Francis' debut against the Boston Bruins, a record at the time.
8 - November 4, 1947 - One of the biggest blockbuster deals in Blackhawks history occurs, as Chicago trades All-Star Max Bentley and Cy Thomas to Toronto for Gus Bodnar, Gaye Stewart, Bob Goldham, Bud Polie and Ernie Dickens. Bentley plays six seasons in Toronto, never coming close to matching his Chicago point totals.
9 - March 23, 1952 - Bill Mosienko scores three goals in 21 seconds, an NHL record.
10 - January 5, 1957 - CBS televises the first U.S. network hockey game at Chicago Stadium and Peter Puck is introduced to audiences. The Hawks lose the game 3-1 to the Rangers.
11 - March 26, 1961 - Murray Balfour scores at 52:11 of overtime, to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 series lead over the Canadiens.
12 - April 16, 1961 - The Blackhawks win their third Stanley Cup, taking Game Six over Detroit by a 5-1 score. The championship ends a 23 year Cup drought for Chicago, the longest in the NHL at the time.
13 - November 7, 1962 - Goalie Glenn Hall plays in an NHL record 502nd consecutive game.
14 - February 25, 1966 - Blackhawks owner James Norris passes away and William Wirtz assumes controls of the Chicago franchise.
15 - March 12, 1966 - Bobby Hull breaks the NHL goal scoring record for a single season set by Maurice Richard in 1945 and equalled by Bernie Geoffrion in 1961, by netting his 51st goal of the campaign against the New York Rangers Ceasar Maniago. Hull would finish the season with a new standard of 54. Three seasons later he would establish a Blackhawks record with 58.
16 - March 12, 1967 - Chicago clinches first place for the first time in their 41 year history.
17 - May 15, 1967 - A stunning six player deal, as Chicago parts with future All Star Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield, sending the trio to Boston for Gilles Marotte, Pit Martin and Jack Norris. Esposito, loud, brash and opinionated, is dealt due to his fondness for the bottle.
18 - In 1966-67, Blackhawks center Stan Mikita pulls off a rare triumvirate at the trophy podium, winning the Hart, the Art Ross and the Lady Byng. Equal to his reputation the consitent Mikita pulls off the same hat trick the following season. Unusually, the Byng is quite an accomplishment for Mikita, who once had totals of 146 and 154 penalty minutes just a few seasons earlier. He dropped doen to six and seven minors ibhis winning years.
19 - January 30, 1969 - The Blackhawks win win by their largest margin ever, defeating the Philadelphia Flyers by a 12-0 score.
20 - June 15, 1969 - The Montreal Canadiens protect goalies Gump Worsley and Phil Myre in the intra-league draft, and Chicago claims future Hall of Famer Tony Esposito for $25,000 cash.
21 - February 21, 1970 - "The Golden Jet", Bobby Hull becomes the NHL's third career 500 goal scorer, by beating the New York Rangers Ed Giacomin on this day.
22 - March 29, 1970 - Tony Esposito records his 15th shutout of the season, establishing an NHL modern day record since unequalled.
23 - April 5, 1970 - The Blackhawks score a 10-2 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens on the last game of the season, Chicago scores six third period goals into an empty net, prompting the NHL to change the tie breaking format for playoff qualification from total goals scored to wins between tied teams. Montreal, despite a 92 point season, misses the playoffs for the first time in 22 years.
24 - March 25, 1972 - Bobby Hull becomes the NHL's second 600 goal man, scoring against Detroit's Andy Brown.
25 - February 27, 1977 - By beating Vancouver Canucks goalie Ceasar Manaiago, Stan Mikita becomes the second player in Blackhawks history to score 500 goals.