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One Goal III Excerpt: We Are the Champions

by Bob Verdi / Chicago Blackhawks

The following is an excerpt from "One Goal III: The Inside Story of the 2015 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks." The book goes on sale Tuesday, Nov. 10 at all Blackhawks Store locations or

Hairy and hugging, the Blackhawks broke into song on the morning of Tuesday, June 16. They stood by their stalls, a chorus line of arms around shoulders, to serenade themselves and assembled guests.

“WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!” they screeched, wearing as proof T-shirts and hats hot off the presses. “WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!”

Not long ago, this franchise was invisible. Now Chicago’s boys of winter are indivisible and, as is their wont, ahead of the curve. Their United Center locker room was scheduled to undergo a complete makeover this summer. So after winning a third Stanley Cup in six years on Monday night, the guys fast-forwarded the reconstruction. A few ceiling tiles were popped loose, the carpet took on serious moisture, and cigar smoke furnished an aroma of success.

Families and friends surrounded tubs of bubbly and beer for hours after a milestone 2-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was a standing-room-only crowd of 22,424, even for those who had secured precious seats but rarely used them. Fans were wetly whooshed into the building under a tornado warning, then were reluctant to depart after a nine-month odyssey concluded just as they hoped it would.

The Blackhawks are as dependable as your best friend, your dog, your couch. After 105 games, 23 in the playoffs, they clinched before their beloved fans for the first time since 1938. At that time the Stanley Cup was resting in Toronto because there was no way that team would upset the mighty Maple Leafs, especially after locating an emergency goalie and extricating him from a saloon to play the series opener.

But that Monday night, the silver trophy was there for the organization that is hockey’s gold standard. The mere visage of a table being brought to center ice after the handshake line elicited an ovation. Duncan Keith, who scored the winner on his own rebound, received the Conn Smythe Trophy by unanimous vote. A remarkable +16 in the playoffs, Keith is perpetual motion. But finally he came to a halt after skating so many miles and stood in place. Teammates say there’s nothing they haven’t seen the tireless defenseman do, except yawn.

Guardians in white gloves carried forth the 35-pound Stanley Cup. Captain Jonathan Toews hoisted it, as he did in Philadelphia in 2010 and in Boston in 2013. Then Toews did what great leaders do: He handed the prize to Kimmo Timonen, 40, an elegant defenseman who can now retire with a smile on his face.

“When he told me this morning that if we win I would get it next, I almost cried,” said Timonen, who was diagnosed with blood clots last summer, but took a chance with the Blackhawks as they took a chance with him at the trading deadline.

“I almost didn’t know what to do with the Cup when I got it. It was my first time. It’s been a long journey. I didn’t even know if I could ever play again after that health scare, but I wanted to give it one more shot. Now I’m living a dream. I’m a Stanley Cup champion. I can’t ask for anything more than that.”

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