CHICAGO – There were moves made long before that created the road to success for one of the NHL’s “Original Six” franchises.
There were drafts, free agent signings, player development, coaching changes, along with a shift in thinking that helped to create a new and distinct era of Chicago Blackhawks hockey.
It certainly didn’t just happen in one day or with one person.
Yet on Tuesday, one can look back fondly at the moment in which the franchise officially put them themselves back among the elite in the National Hockey League.
On June 9, 2010, a dynasty was born.
In Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, the Blackhawks pulled out a 4-3 overtime with to capture their first championship since 1961.
Patrick Kane, then in his third year in the league, scored an unusual Stanley Cup-clinching goal during the extra session. His shot from the side of the net managed to slide under goalie Michael Leighton and got stuck under padding in the net.
Only Kane seemed to know it went in, throwing his stick and gloves in the air as he raced towards goalie Antti Niemi at the other end of the ice. His teammates would eventually join him, and when officials discovered the puck lodged in the padding, a massive celebration began.
Captain Jonathan Toews accepted the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff’s MVP and then took the Stanley Cup from commissioner Gary Bettman. He hoisted it in the air in celebration, and for the next few minutes, each player got their chance to hoist the iconic trophy.
It was a moment that was 49 years in the making, as great teams in the late 1960s, early 1970s, and early 1990s reached the final but could never come up with a victory. It had been 18 years since the Blackhawks had last appeared in the championship series, and that year (1992) they were swept by the Penguins.
The team remained competitive through the mid-1990s but then slid towards the bottom of the league towards the end of the decade. That continued until the late 2000s when the infusion of new talent and marketing ideas rebuilt the team’s brand. It not only reinvigorated a dormant base of longtime fans, but also created a new following of rooters who were discovering the new-look franchise.
In 2009 they ended a seven-year playoff drought and reached the Western Conference Finals. After a loss to Detroit there, the Blackhawks had their greatest regular season, setting franchise records for wins (52) and points (112).
Playoff series wins over Nashville, Vancouver, and San Jose set up the team’s final with the Flyers. The teams held serve at home through five games, but the Blackhawks got one on the road in Game 6, and delivered the much-anticipated moment.
Two days later, the fans gathered downtown for a championship rally in which there were an estimated two million fans in attendance. It was the celebration to end a half-century of frustration, and ushered in the most successful era in franchise history.
The team would qualify for the postseason every year until the 2017-2018 campaign, winning Stanley Cup titles in 2013 and 2015. Franchise icons in Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith were established, with each group adding in their own unique mix of players to win a championship.
But this dynasty had a starting point, and it was a decade ago Tuesday.