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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team “It’s exciting in Chicago, it’s the first time in a long time that people are expecting a good season out of the Hawks, and that’s a good thing. I feel like we could be a better team than we were last year but we know it’s not going to easy,” said Patrick Sharp, one of the Hawks’ top scorers during 2009-10 training camp.

Expectations are indeed high for a team deemed by many the Western Conference favorite. It began this past weekend in Finland, in a two game split with the Florida Panthers, and debuted in North America with a loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night. Despite the inevitable ups and downs of a roller coaster off-season, the Hawks are trendy like Taylor Swift when it comes to picking a Cup participant.blackhawksshow

“They’re warranted, we have some good hockey players here. Going all the way to game five against Detroit opened some eyes and there’s expectations,” said the newly acquired John Madden. There is one Blackhawk who will be under the spotlight more than any other. If Left Wing Patrick Kane is looking for a song to encapsulate his upcoming season, perhaps its 2pac’s “All Eyes on Me.” No player in the Olympics or the NHL will have the spotlight shined as bright upon him this winter. “Kaner” is the face of the franchise, EA Sports NHL ’10 video game, and when February comes, Team USA hockey.

And when the Hawks take to the road, opposing fans will heckle him, worse than Hawks fans heckle any member of the Red Wings. Of course, on the other hand, a lot of people in this country have very short term memories, so if we see a couple “Hatrick Kane” nights early in the season, pretty much everyone will forget what happened in Buffalo on August 9th.

For a more in-depth preview of the forwards click here, goaltending and defensemen go here. For more with Patrick Kane, follow this link.

The Blackhawks open their home slate versus Colorado tonight at 7:30. There will be a special red carpet event on Madison Street from 5:00 to 5:30 P.M. Players will arrive via limousine on Madison Street in front of Gate 3 and will each be introduced before walking down a red carpet and into the United Center. Blackhawks Radio Play-By-Play Announcer John Wiedeman will serve as the master of ceremonies for the event, which attracted thousands of fans last season.  It’s free and open to the public and also features appearances by Blackhawks alumni, executives, broadcasters, Tommy Hawk, the team’s mascot, and the Bud Light Ice Crew.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ sports-writing at:

-the site he founded The Sports Bank.net

-NBA analysis at Walter Football.com

-”Patrick Kane Chronicles” at Buffalo Sports Daily

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team During the Bill Wirtz era, it was not uncommon for the Chicago Blackhawks to draw less than 5,000 fans for a game. Earlier this decade, they finished dead last in the NHL in attendance. This season however, the Blackhawks set a National Hockey League club record by attracting an average of 21,783 to their 40 home dates at United Center (also, 40,818 filled Wrigley Field for the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day). It’s fashionable now to be “committed to the Indian.” Supporting the Blackhawks is the new black. On Monday night the Hawks, for the first time in franchise history, welcomed their one millionth fan in a single season (including playoffs) and they did it in style defeating the Vancouver Canucks 7-5 in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

Face of the franchise Patrick Kane (or should I say “Hat trick Kane”) commented on the fanbase. “They’ve been there for us all year, whether it’s the show we’re putting on, they just keep coming back. We put on a good performance on for them. They say Bruce Springsteen’s up next tomorrow, so they say he’ll have trouble putting on the same show we did (chuckles), so it should be pretty fun and we look forward to the next series,” the star winger said. Chicago advances to their first Conference Final since 1995 where they’ll face the winner of Detroit/Anaheim.blackhawksshowEarlier this season, Chicago established a single-season attendance record, hosting 871, 337. The previous high set in 935, 971. GM Dale Tallon spoke about the journey. “It’s been a long time coming for these fans and they’ve been supportive and to do it here in this packed house rocking like this is quite special, so I’m very happy for our players and fans,” Tallon said.
The Blackhawks led the league in attendance and merchandise sales. They have one of the most recognized logos in all of sports. In the 90s, we saw Clark W. Griswold from the National Lampoon’s Vacation movies sporting the Hawks jersey, so did Wayne and Garth from “Wayne’s World.” Now it seems like everyone is, and with the Bulls eliminated from the postseason, both baseball teams struggling through mediocre injury-filled starts to the season and months until the Bears commence, don’t expect this bandwagon to lose any momentum.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

It’s been a long time coming, but we’re finally going to see some postseason hockey action on Chicago’s West side, so now it’s time to look ahead.

Of course, the most boring and mind-numbing cliche in all of sports is “we don’t look ahead, we’re taking them one game at a time,” but we’re not athletes here. Both fans and us media types love to look down the road.

Click here to read the rest of this post on nbcchicago.com.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team Last week the Chicago Blackhawks lost and later regained the Western Conference’s fourth seed and with it the final home ice advantage for the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. They’re currently two points ahead of the fifth place Vancouver Canucks – who come to town Sunday for a slightly important regular season game- and five points ahead of the 6th place Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Hawks are helped immensely by the return of pure scorer Patrick Sharp. Number ten looked as sharp as hispatrick_sharp namesake during his first game back Sunday. Sharp had 2 goals and an assist in a 4-1 victory over Los Angeles. It was also nice for the United Center crowd to hear ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” played in celebration of goals again. Especially since we’re getting sick of the usual goal-scoring song- that annoying tune – Amstel light commercials. Chicago is 38-22-11 on the season, but went just 6-7-3 without Sharpie. “You add a player like that to our lineup, you have 3 lines that can all produce and are dangerous. So it’s a really nice addition,” Coach Joel Quenneville said.

The Hawks are just three points behind third place Calgary, but do not hold a realistic chance of obtaining third place, because the top three slots are reserved for division champions and the Hawks have no chance at catching the Central leading Detroit Red Wings. Seven of Chicago’s final 11 are at home, where the Hawks are 19-7-7. If Vancouver is to catch them, they’ll have to do it away from Canada with 7 of their final 11 on the road. And don’t forget about that youngster franchise in Columbus. The Blue Jackets have already set a franchise record for points in a season and are getting hot at the right time. During this final stretch, Chicago will try to get the same type of separation from the muddled middle that San Jose and Detroit currently possess.

“Being in the middle of this pack again, it certainly gets your attention. I think everyone has some stretches; during the course of the year we had some bumps. I think March was extended and I think we can learn something from it. Maybe we let off the gas pedal a little bit, and we know now: that can’t happen,” Quenneville stated on Sunday. Maintaining a position with home ice is crucial, because as star defenseman Duncan Keith recently told me, “We feed off that. When there’s 22, 21 thousand people cheering for you, it helps.”

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team
The Winter Classic may have received all the hype, but few regular season games will have more importance than Wednesday night when the Blackhawks welcome the NHL points leading San Jose Sharks to the United Center.

“It’ll be a good test, a huge game we gotta be up and ready for,” Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook said.

On Sunday the Hawks (38-22-11, 87 pts) broke their five game winless streak.

Read the rest of this post on nbcchicago.com.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

When the Chicago Blackhawks named 20 year old center Jonathan Toews their team captain last off-season, he became the youngest guy in the NHL (third youngest in league history) to wear the capital “C” on his jersey. With this honor came the responsibility of taking accountability to the media grilling after games, including the tough losses when no players feel like talking. Toews has a captaincy style similar to White Sox leader Paul Konerko: serious, soft-spoken and always ready to analyze and discuss the state of his team. When the Hawks encountered their last rough patch, Toews spoke candidly about it:

“We know there’s going to be tough stretches during the schedule. At the end of the day there’s always going to be little things nagging at you: injuries, fatigue whatever it is, but those excuses don’t matter. Everyone knows we’re a young team, but we showed what kind of a team we are in December and we want to keep going down that path and getting better,” Toews said following a recent disappointing home loss to St. Louis. toews-blackhawks-392

Recently Toews has talked a lot with his game. With 6 points in the last 5 games (including the Hawks’ only hat trick this season on February 27th) Toews is getting hot down the stretch. With star forward Patrick Sharp away from the ice on injured reserve, Toews is now the leading goal scorer on the Western Conference’s fourth seeded team. In just his second season, the 3rd overall pick of the 2006 NHL draft is far from the most tenured player on the team. However, it’s Toews, not one of the older veterans in the Hawks locker room, who puts the ups-and-downs of the 80 game grind in perspective.

“It’s a long season, we’re not going to make excuses, even the best teams have their rough spots, we just got to learn to battle through and not accept that. We got enough character and will in this room to be a successful team and the success we had early on- we know that’s not good enough. We’re not satisfied,” Toews said describing the big picture.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

When Denis Savard was fired from his position as head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks just four games into this season, many people criticized the decision.
Most were uber-critical about the timing. Savard was a sentimental fan favorite, despite a 1-2-1 record on the young season.

Today however, the decision to insert Joel Quenneville in place of “Savvy” looks quite astute. With Coach Q. in place the team has seen its on-ice record (28-12-7 since the Indian committed to Quenneville) improve as much as the team’s Q Rating.

Click here to read the rest of this post on nbcchicago.com.

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