NHL

Stanley Cup final mostly painful for Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks swept the San Jose Sharks and now have a shot to end the longest Stanley Cup drought of the Original Six teams.
Bobby Hull, left, and teammate Jack Evans pose with the Stanley Cup after beating Detroit in the 1961 final, the last time the Blackhawks ruled the NHL. ((Associated Press file))

The Chicago Blackhawks swept the San Jose Sharks and now have a shot to end the longest Stanley Cup drought of the Original Six hockey teams.

Anyone who tells you they remember the last time the Blackhawks hoisted the Cup is either lying or accruing all the wonderful benefits an AARP card entails.

Chicago was presented the Stanley Cup from NHL president Clarence S. Campbell on April 16, 1961, after defeating the Detroit Red Wings in six games.

John F. Kennedy's presidency and Wayne Gretzky's life were just three months old, and the Beatles had just arrived for their second stint in Hamburg, but were still a few weeks from their first important studio session, backing up Tony Sheridan.

Forget about current Chicago young guns Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. We're not even sure if their parents were around yet.

Since then, the Blackhawks have come up empty in five painful trips to the NHL final. They were leading in Game 7 on two of those occasions.

Here's a snapshot of Chicago's Stanley Cup final history. The franchise is just 3-6 in their previous trips, a total that could have easily been reversed.

The 1930s

The Blackhawks would reach the final in their fifth year of existence in 1931 and appeared to have good fortune on their side.

After dropping the first game, the Blackhawks won the second in double overtime. Chicago then led 2-1 in the best-of-five series after Cy Wentworth ended nearly 54 minutes of overtime, beating George Hainesworth.

But the Cup wasn't anything like today — the format saw the first two games played in Chicago, and the remaining three in Montreal.

After Montreal tied the series, Canadian Press writer H.M. Peters said in the first period of Game 5 that "Hainesworth was at the top of his form." Chicago dominated the first but couldn't score, with Howie Morenz sealing the result with a late goal in a 2-0 Montreal victory.

Chicago would get its first championship three years later. Mush March scored in overtime to give the Blackhawks a 3-1 series win over the Detroit Red Wings for their first Stanley Cup in 1934. Tommy Gorman's squad got a 10-minute ovation from the Chicago Stadium crowd.

Star-crossed goaltender Chuck Gardiner would record the shutout in the final game, but two months later would be dead at 29 after a brain hemorrhage brought on by an infection.

March also scored one of four goals on Turk Broda in Game 4 of the 1938 final as the underdog Blackhawks topped the favoured Toronto Maple Leafs for the Cup.

Mike Karakas had eventually taken over as Chicago's No. 1 goalie after Gardiner's death, but had to overcome a broken toe in the '38 Cup final.

Alfie Moore was among the first of the unsung Stanley Cup heroes in history, summoned to replace Karakas in one of the games after a season spent with the minor-league Pittsburgh Barons.

Newspaper reports indicated the final game of the series was attended by 17,204 at Chicago Stadium, the most in league history.

It was also reported that each player on the winning team received $1,250 US, a winner's share that didn't get much better over the next couple of decades.

The 1st drought

Chicago would go 23 years before winning again, but in 1944, would make the Cup final. The Blackhawks were led that season by the line of Bill Mosienko, Doug Bentley and Clint Smith, the last of whom died in 2009.

Chicago wasn't competitive in the final, swept in what was by then a best-of-seven affair. Montreal would win for the first time in 13 years,  the longest championship drought in franchise history until the current one for the Canadiens.

Toe Blake scored the overtime winner and added four assists in the final game of the sweep. Blake set a new playoff record with 18 points overall, while second-year forward Maurice Richard would bury 12 goals.

It would be the last Stanley Cup final in the career of life-long Blackhawks and Saskatchewan native March.

Hall, Hull & other heroes

Chicago was in a fierce battle with Montreal in the first round of the 1961 playoffs, with the series tied 2-2 as the Canadiens were gunning for an unprecedented sixth consecutive Stanley Cup.

Elmer Vasko and Bobby Hull would be among those to beat Jacques Plante in the next game, with the Canadiens unable to beat Glen Hall without Bernie Geoffrion, who was out with a knee injury. The Blackhawks made it to the Cup final with a Game 6 victory.

Chicago was again tied after four games in the final against Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, Norm Ullman and the rest of the Detroit Red Wings.

The Blackhawks maintained home ice advantage with a 6-2 win in Game 5. On a team led by Hull and with emerging star Stan Mikita, it was the less heralded players who led the way in the final game.

Reg Fleming and Ab McDonald scored after Detroit went up 1-0, and Eric Nesterenko, Jack Evans and Ken Wharram added more goals in the 5-1 victory. The team coached by Rudy Pilous won the Cup in Detroit's Olympia, but that didn't stop the Blackhawks from carrying netminder Hall on their shoulders.

Also on the team: defenceman Al Arbour, winning the second of what would be eight Stanley Cups as a player or coach.

The long drought begins

Chicago made a bid to repeat in 1962, but lost 2-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the final game.

Gracious winner Punch Imlach of the Leafs poured salt in the wound after the sixth and final game.

"Actually, I think our success can be attributed to our three centres — [Dave] Keon, [Bob] Pulford and [Red] Kelly," the Toronto general manager told reporters. "Those three are better than any three of the Hawks, and I'm including Stan Mikita in there."

An interesting analysis considering Hull scored 50 goals that season and Mikita finished with 21 points in the playoffs, six more than any other NHL player.

Beginning in 1965, Billy Reay's Blackhawks would lose in the Stanley Cup final three times over the next nine years, each time to the Montreal Canadiens.

Doug Mohns and Vasko scored for Chicago in Game 6 to force a deciding game in 1965.

The seventh game started badly for Chicago, with Jean Beliveau scoring 14 seconds after the face off. It only got worse in a 4-0 shutout loss, as 36-year-old Gump Worsley helped the Habs to their 13th Cup.

Goalie Tony Esposito gets congratulations from coach Billy Reay after Chicago eliminated Montreal in the 1970 playoffs, but whenever the Stanley Cup was at stake in the decade, the Canadiens prevailed. ((Fred Jewell/Canadian Press))

The Stanley Cup final in 1971 has been lionized endlessly in Canada as the year that unheralded rookie Ken Dryden helped the Canadiens topple the mighty Boston Bruins and then the Blackhawks in the final.

In Chicago, it is remembered as one that got away. Blackhawks fans could taste the Cup as Danny O'Shea scored the first two goals of Game 7 of the final, his only two in 18 playoff games.

It seemed to be a good omen, and the lead that held up over Montreal through the midway point of the contest.

But the Canadiens would score three times in just over eight minutes beginning at 14:18 of the second. Henri Richard, who branded Montreal coach Al McNeil as "incompetent" earlier in the series, scored the tying and winning goals to sink  Reay's team.

The Blackhawks helped set some records in the 1973 Stanley Cup final, but it didn't do them any good.

Chicago was in the final — minus Hull, who had bolted to the World Hockey Association — after upsetting the New York Rangers in the previous round.

Chicago and Montreal combined for 56 goals in six games, a record for total goals that still stands for any Stanley Cup final, including ones that have gone seven games.

Unfortunately, the Blackhawks allowed 33 Stanley Cup final goals, a record that still stands.

Chicago quickly fell behind by two games and was only able to win one of two in its own building. Mikita gave them hope with two goals and two assists in a wacky 8-7 victory at the Forum in Montreal in Game 5.

Pit Martin would score two early goals at Chicago Stadium in Game 6, and then after Montreal stormed back to a 4-3 lead, got the hat-trick goal late in the second. The Blackhawks were in line to tie the series but Yvan Cournoyer and Marc Tardif would score in the third to give the Canadiens another Cup victory.

The 1980s were an exercise in frustration for Chicago hockey fans, as talented teams that included the likes of Denis Savard, Doug Wilson and Steve Larmer would reach the conference final five times without being able to get to the final round. Edmonton was the main culprit, eliminating the Blackhawks at the penultimate stage three times.

Coach Mike Keenan would lead Chicago to the final in 1992, but the end result wasn't pretty. The Blackhawks were competitive against the offensive juggernaut of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1, but would score just two goals in dropping the next two games as Tom Barrasso outduelled Ed Belfour.

Belfour would even give way to second-year goalie Dominik Hasek in Game 4, but it wasn't enough for Chicago as Mario Lemieux and the Penguins prevailed 6-5.

The Blackhawks had strong teams for another few years, but would soon enter a forgettable patch in which they would miss the playoffs nine times.

In just their second year back in the playoffs, the current Blackhawks now have a chance to end nearly a half-century of waiting.

Corrections

  • The original version of this article incorrectly stated that the record that Montreal set in 1973 with 33 goals in a six-game final was later broken. In fact, the record still stands.
    Oct 16, 2013 11:26 PM ET

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