Blackhawks Way starts at top, finishes with Cup

Hawks pull off what so few Chicago teams have done — fulfill their promise

Chicago Tribune sportswriters Mike Kellams, Steve Rosenbloom, and Chris Kuc discuss the Blackhawks' future and possible trades leading up to the draft. (Posted on: June 25)

BOSTON — As if to steady himself from the shock afflicting everybody, Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz laid one hand on President John McDonough and the other on Vice President Jay Blunk.

All three men were walking down a hallway inside TD Garden late Monday — walking on air, based on their smiles — moments after the Hawks' amazing 3-2 victory over the Bruins in Game 6 to win the Stanley Cup.

"You can't allow yourself to get too far ahead, so I waited until the final seconds,'' Wirtz said. "Then the emotion came out, tears filled my eyes and, you know what, it felt right.''

For the entire Blackhawks organization, this was more than a feeling in Boston. This was the kind of experience that changes lives and legacies. It made Joel Quenneville one of only four coaches in Chicago to win multiple titles, joining Phil Jackson of the Bulls, George Halas of the Bears and Frank Chance of the Cubs. It validated general manager Stan Bowman as the architect of his own championship team.

"Oh, my God, can you believe this?'' Bowman exclaimed as he hugged his son, Will, during the celebration.

It was a fair question. Like they did all season, the Hawks found a way to come up with the right answer. The Blackhawks Way has instilled a sense of belief that spreads from the front office through the fourth line.

For years, they will celebrate Dave Bolland for scoring the winning goal with 58.3 seconds left and Bryan Bickell for tying it only 17 seconds before that. They will praise Jonathan Toews for leadership and Patrick Kane, the Conn Smythe winner, for clutch goal-scoring. They will compliment goalie Corey Crawford for proving everybody wrong and Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith and every indispensable role player who made possible the second Cup title in four years.

But it all began with Wirtz, McDonough and Bowman, who assembled a team capable of doing what Chicago sports teams so rarely do. A team that's so very un-Chicago, one that fulfilled promise rather than failed, one making history instead of breaking hearts.

For the first time since the Bulls dynasty in the 1990s, a championship core in Chicago did it again. This is what the 1985 Bears were supposed to do, what the 2005 White Sox teased, what the Cubs only can imagine.

This was a resilient team that recovered from a 3-1 series deficit to the Red Wings and a 2-1 hole to the Bruins. This was a team that trailed Game 6 with less than 90 seconds left before Bickell beat Tuukka Rask in front of the net, where he found himself often during the playoffs.

Just 17 frantic seconds later, Bolland established a lasting legacy by knocking in a deflection off Johnny Oduya's shot to create a roar along Lake Michigan louder than any thunderstorm could.

"It was like a lightning bolt hit,'' McDonough said.

It was on this date in 1976 that Bruins legend Bobby Orr signed a free-agent contract with the Blackhawks. Exactly 37 years later in a building decorated by Orr's statue, the Hawks took something Boston thought belonged to it.

"What a team, what an ending,'' Quenneville said. "What a special group.''

That group promised to treat Game 6 like Game 7. But after the first period, it was clear only the team facing elimination did that.

Nothing epitomized the Bruins' early dominance better than the puddle of blood under Andrew Shaw. Shaw blocked Shawn Thornton's wrist shot with his face and went down immediately with 4:01 left in the period. As Shaw skated away to get stitches after a scary moment, a smattering of boos drowned out respectful applause.

The "Pocket Pest'' returned and during one sequence kept battling for the puck despite losing his helmet. Boston can hate this kid, but Chicago can't help but love Shaw, whose Game 1 winner in triple overtime means even more now.

Maybe Shaw just knows how to follow the leader. Toews set quite an example, taking the ice 48 hours after a blow from Johnny Boychuk — a vicious hit that should have resulted in a suspension. Yet Toews trudged on, his incomparable persistence paying off at the 4:24 mark of the second when he delivered the equalizer that lowered a city's collective blood pressure.

It was one goal from the Captain that helped make One Goal a reality.

"The bigger the game, the bigger the setting, you know what you're going to get from Jonathan Toews,'' Quenneville said.

After hoisting the silver chalice for the second time in four years, the same now can be said about the pride of Chicago, the Hawks. The mighty Blackhawks.

dhaugh@tribune.com

Twitter @DavidHaugh

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