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Posts Tagged ‘stanley cup’

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

On July 1st, “Canada Day” or that nation’s version of Independence Day, the Chicago Blackhawks made the biggest headlines in the NHL when the league officially opened its free agency period. I wanted to see what they did the rest of the week before analyzing their personnel moves- because nothing in life happens in a vacuum.

The Losses:

Leaving the Chicago Blackawks were winger Martin Havlat, who collected a six-year, $30 million deal from the Minnesota Wild. Havlat, who led the Hawks in scoring last season with 29 goals and 48 assists and was one of the most crucial players in the long playoff run, left on (possibly) somewhat bitter terms, as evidenced by his tweets on Wednesday night:

“Excited to be in Minny where I was welcomed and appreciated by management”

“The real story about what happened in Chicago [will] come out”

“There’s something to be said for loyalty and honor”

Stay tuned. Havlat has one of the best “following to followers ratio” I’ve ever seen: 12 to 7,832. Also among the departed were veteran goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (Edmonton, four years and $15 million), center Sammy Pahlsson (Columbus, 3 years $7.95 million) and defenceman Matt Walker (Tampa Bay, 4 years $6.8 million).

khabibulin2Matt Walker, no he’s not the drummer from Filter who later joined the Smashing Pumpkins, is a serviceable but not spectacular blue-liner who may find more minutes in Tampa.

The Additions:

The Hawks signed two-time Stanley Cup Champion and 10-year National Hockey League center John Madden to a one-year contract. No, this isn’t the annoying,  still-wondering-why-he-has-a-job-on-television football broadcaster who loves Mexican food and only travels by bus.

Madden, 36, has spent his entire career with the New Jersey Devils, helping the organization reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the last nine seasons. The Barrie, Ontario native captured the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 2001, given annually to the National Hockey League’s best defensive forward, and was the runner-up in 2003, 2004, and 2008.

But the big prize was right wing Marian Hossa, even though I find the 12 year contract to be more than a bit extravagant.

“To add Marian, an elite and world-class player, and Tomas, a Stanley Cup Champion, to our exciting young core reinforces our commitment to try to win the Stanley Cup,” Blackhawks General Manager Dale Tallon said. Last season, Hossa, 30, led the Red Wings in goals (40) and finished third in points (71) during the regular season before chipping in 15 points (6G, 9A) while appearing in all 23 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Hossa is (somewhat dubiously) known as the guy who played on the Stanley Cup runner-up team the past two seasons. This “feat” is newsworthy when you consider you had the same two teams (Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins) playing each other both years, and a different team won each year.

The Hawks also snatched away from Detroit center Tomas Kopecky (TAW-mahsh, koh-PEHTS-kee) He finished second on the team with 109 hits. But I don’t think the Hawks are done dealing yet- And I have a feeling the next signing will be a defenseman. The same position they focused their draft on. So don’t judge the +/- of this offseason just yet.

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 One of the weirdest aspects of a rivalry is when a player changes teams, and goes to his former team’s bitterest of rivals. 

Even though he’s been wearing a Detroit Red Wings(who currently lead the Stanley Cup Finals 2-1)  sweater now for 9 years when Chris Chelios was in town last week you just had to root for him. Even despite  his  contributing to the Blackhawks demise. If you didn’t then you fit in to Jerry Seinfeld’s “sports fans are rooting for clothes” routine.

(We’re currently seeing the same thing with Joe Crede leaving the Sox for the Twins) Rivalries are all about black-versus-white, but when it comes to situations like this, it’s actually a shade of grey. With an injury to all-world defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, as well as his back-up Ericcson, Chelios got his chance to contribute during the Western Conference Finals. Doing the ceremonial puck drop that game was Bob Probert another guy who played for both the Red Wings and Hawks. Chelios spoke about the playoff atmosphere:

“I had a good feeling when it was Proby, because he played for the Wings and the Hawks, everything they’ve done from the marketing to the bringing back the veterans Bobby Hull, Mikita. It’s good to see them back in the building, I’m playing hockey for one reason: because I grew up watching the Hawks,” the Evergreen Park native said.

Chelios commented after the game about how the roar has been restored in Chicago hockey. “It reminded me of being in the old stadium. It’s different when you’re on the other team, but I feed off of that and I think our team likes the atmosphere,” Chelly said.

The 47 year old University of Wisconsin-Madison alum is the second oldest player in league history (he’s older than his coach Mike Babcock) to Gordie Howe. Is this finally it for him?

“Everybody’s trying to get rid of me, it’s crazy, but they’ll miss me when I’m gone, so I’ll stay around as long as someone wants me, I love playing,” Chelios said.

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 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

With the Chicago Blackhawks capturing the city’s heart this season, numerous second city citizens who previously ignored hockey are now finding themselves to be experts on the sport’s terminology. “Even Strength” is the term used to describe the portion of the game when both teams have the same number of attackers on the ice. It’s also the perfect way to describe the Hawks match-up with the Vancouver Canucks in. The statistics for the best of seven series, which Vancouver now leads 2-1, are remarkably even. Vancouver has the edge in total goals by just one, Vancouver has committed only two more penalties than Chicago, and both teams have exactly 13 penalty kills in this series.

Each team even has a home venue (United Center and General Motors Place) named by a transportation corporation recently in or headed towards bankruptcy protectionchicago-blackhawks

Vancouver defenseman Ossi Vaananeen spoke highly regarding the fundamentals of the team currently battling his squad so tightly. “They’ve played well, in a tough division. They have good power play, good special teams, they scored a lot of even strength goals, they had more points than us this year,” Vaananeen said.

An even Steven series should have been expected when considering how the regular season went. Just 3 points and one win separated the two clubs in the 2008-09 standings. The two teams also tied for exactly 88 points in 2007-08. Even though the Hawks were the better team during the regular season, they now must win Thursday, if they are to have a realistic shot at winning the series. Hawks captain Jonathan Toews spoke about some things Chicago must improve. “I think we need to start chipping away and moving out feet to wearing them down next time,” Toews said in reference to the Hawks falling behind in each game of the series. The way things are going, it will likely take a 7th game (and probably and overtime shootout) to decide this Western Conference semifinal.

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

The Blackhawks have ruled Canada like Prime Minister Stephen Harper this season, compiling a 15-5 record (including playoffs) versus Canadian teams this season.

But this round’s matchup against the Vancouver Canucks will provide a much bigger challenge than Calgary in the first round. Chicago and Vancouver split the four game regular-season series with each team winning a game at home and away.

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

In order for the Blackhawks to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, they’ll have to first skate past Mike Keenan, the man who guided them to their last cup appearance. Keenan, currently with his 8th team, is to NHL coaching jobs what Elisha Cuthbert is to dating hockey players: they’ve been around the block a few times. The heavily-traded coaching commodity has a long history of getting involved in power plays (of the metaphorical kind) with people at all levels of the organizations he’s been with. His personality breeds controversy, and these controversies have granted him his carpetbagger resume.

After taking the Blackhawks to the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals, Keenan eventually lost a power struggle with Senior V.P. Bob Pulford after the 1992–93 season, resigned his position, and was soon hired to coach the New York Rangers. The next season, New York ended their infamous Cup drought. And now Chicago currently has the dubious distinction of longest hockey championship drought. After a 3-2 overtime loss in game one, Keenan was again stirring the pot in Chicago. When he rocked the mic at the post game press conference, he devoted much of his brief time to his belief that Chicago’s game one win was largely due to illegal goalie interference penalties being perpetrated (but not called) against his team.keenan-mike

“It’s a certainly part of the game plan, It’s a good plan if you can get away with it, and so far they have,” Keenan said regarding the home team possibly illegally pushing his star goalie Miika Kiprusoff over.

I said before the series started (partially because I heard it on NHL Network a couple days ago) that getting Left Wing Mike Cammalleri going would be the key to Keenan’s offense, and Cammalleri lived up to the billing by becoming the lone Calgary representative to earn a “three stars of the game” position in game one. Cammalleri was still upbeat about in the series in the locker room after the loss. “We didn’t get the win, but it’s not a one game series and I love our group,” he said.

But the most important thing Keenan’s bunch must do if they wish to end Chicago’s dominance over them (the Hawks are 5-0 with a +13 goal differential on the season versus Calgary) is to warm up their ice-cold power play. Anticipating a Flames score with a man advantage is like expecting a sober Amy Winehouse, as they currently have a 0-45 power play drought in effect.
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

Being a fan of Chicago sports can sometimes be as character building as walking outside for long distances in January.

With Northwestern’s tournament bubble officially bursting last weekend, baseball getting ready to kick off, and the NHL playoffs commencing the week after, it’s a fine time to revisit the long-suffering dry spells that are Chicago’s very own.

Before reading on, please do remember this George Michael lyric from his Wham! days: “There’s no comfort in the truth, pain is all you’ll find.”

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

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