As a youngster growing up in Southern Ontario in the late 50's, I was the only Blackhawks fan around. I grew up in a community of Leafs and Habs fans. I wore number 9 in all the sports I played because I idolized the Golden Jet, Bobby Hull (I used to warp my math ruler in the third grade and would "fire" erasers across the room, emulating the curved hockey stick used by Mikita and Hull).
My mother knitted toques (ski hats) and winter outdoor sweaters with the 'Hawks colors and the logo attached. I would listen to my 9-volt radio every Sunday night to hear Lloyd Petit do the play by play and of course falling asleep before game's end. (more batteries to buy the next day). I was hooked and enjoyed the Rudy Pilous led 'Hawks to the 1961 Stanley Cup. It has been a long time coming to return to that atmosphere that once rocked Chicago Stadium.
Today, the 'Hawks have a genuine confidence brewing right now. It has the feeling of years long ago. The team has the entire arena, the city and the hockey community believing they have a chance to win the Stanley Cup once again. The leadership crew of the 'Hawks is excited, but in the same breath reserved. They play a smarter game today than they did a year ago and they have grown as a unit from the start of the season until the present. The confidence is apparent and they are treating each game like it is a game 7.
What has been the difference? Jonathan Toews says as a team they are learning to control the emotions of each game. They have been able to remain poised in each series. This key element is very simple to say, but very difficult to accomplish. The inert ability in not getting too high and the lows should be short lived. What the team does need is a consistent on ice production and leadership from their captain, as well as the best players on the ice. Patrick Kane... Patrick Sharp... David Bolland... Antti Niemi... Keith and Seabrook, have all been contributors to date.
Jonathon Toews is producing and leading as a captain should, doing a remarkable job of setting the example. His current 12 consecutive game point streak is impressive; so impressive he has broken Stan Mikita's record of 11 games set 49 years ago. It occurred on Mikita's 70th birthday... too much class for the old 'Hawk, as he is cherishing the resurgence of the entire organization. He is happy to step aside in the record books.
One player having a giggle about all the hype directed at Jonathon Toews is Patrick Kane. Every time there is a media scrum and any question regarding the leadership of the North Dakota product, Kane admits he is sick and tired of pumping Toews tires. But confesses he is a good leader(and friend)he is amused and sports a grin!!
Another person that is standing above all others (in more ways) and has been a horse in the playoffs has been "Big Buff". Six-feet-four, 257-lbs Dustin Byfuglien has created havoc using his size and keeping his game simple. He has been getting open and has been going to net with a purpose. He possesses a good shot and soft hands for a big man. He has scored eight goals so far in the playoffs, and five goals in the last five games. It certainly does not hurt playing with the likes of Kane and Toews. The captain expects him to keep it up for the remainder of the playoffs, as he has found a home in front of the oppositions' net.
The team is meeting all expectations and the battle increases now and it will take survival mode to continue to have success. They have a great home ice advantage with the 22,000-plus fans echoing their support from the anthem onward. However, they are just playing over .500 hockey at home. They have taken drastic measures to assist in the mental psyche by staying in a local hotel within the city.
At this time of the year, the combatants play for the person sitting next to them in the locker room. Like Hull and Mikita in the past, can Toews and Kane lead the troops to the promise land?
Stay tuned, the Stanley Cup Finals are the next stop for the 'Hawks!
*Throughout the season, AAA will bring you the Broadcaster's Blogs - "Bobby Mac's Blog," "Davidge Dishes" and "Rimer Ramblings." The Columbus Blue Jackets radio and television analysts will try to keep you updated on all the season action through their blogs, especially when the Blue Jackets are on the road.