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Eleven years ago, on Thanksgiving Eve: a disturbance in the Force

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Marian Hossa’s debut sparked Chicago’s dismantling of the Sharks on Thanksgiving Eve, 11 years ago.

Chicago Blackhawks v San Jose Sharks Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Eleven years ago, Nov. 25 also fell on the night before Thanksgiving.

It was customary back then for the Blackhawks to be on the west coast, in the middle of a lengthy road trip while booted from the United Center by a traveling circus tour — hence the moniker “Circus Trip.” That meant a late start, which served as a perfect outlet for the attention of those into their third or fourth or fifth drink of the night while “catching up” with all of those “friends” on the biggest bar night of the year in the US.

But 2009 was something special, because something different was going to happen that night: Marian Hossa was going to make his Blackhawks debut, nearly six months after signing a 12-year, $63.3 million contract.

(Side note: that contract is now in its final year.)

Hossa signed on July 1, 2009 but was sidelined by shoulder surgery while the Blackhawks exploded out of the gate in a season that many (correctly) expected to end with Chicago competing for the Cup.

Sure, this team had been trending in the direction of Cup contender for a while. A win over the Oilers just before Christmas in 2007 was the first signs that the fan base around the team was re-awakening from its lengthy slumber. The deep postseason run in 2009 — most notably the six-game defeat of the hated Canucks in the Western Conference Semifinals — validated the team’s arrival.

But it wasn’t until that Thanksgiving Eve game against the Sharks that — to borrow a phrase that was thrown around social media so often that it’s impossible to find its origin — the Blackhawks’ Death Star was fully operational.

And the Tatooine Sharks had no chance.

The breakdown of this game remains just as comical, 11 years later:

  • The Blackhawks opened the scoring with three consecutive shorthanded goals, including two during the same Sharks’ power play
  • Chicago outshot Tatooine San Jose 41-24.
  • By the end of the second period, with Chicago ahead 4-0, the Blackhawks owned a 47-28 advantage in Corsi events, 28-14 advantage in scoring chances and a 10-4 lead in high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick
  • In 9:09 of power play ice time, the Sharks mustered six shots on goal. The Hawks also had six shots on goal during that timeframe.
  • Sharks starter Evgeni Nabokov didn’t make it to the third period, allowing four goals on 29 shots. Reliever Thomas Greiss didn’t fare any better, allowing three goals in 12 shots in the third period.

The Heatmap and Gameflow from Natural Stat Trick look about as lopsided as expected:

This was no bottom-feeding Sharks team that Chicago thoroughly dismantled, either. Many of the names that became San Jose staples in the 2010s were already there: Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and more. The Sharks entered the game with a 16-5-4 record, right in step with Chicago’s 15-5-2 mark. This was supposed to be a clash of Western Conference titans, a preview of what turned out to be the Western Conference final in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Instead it was as complete of an ass-kicking as an NHL team can deliver. It was everything the Blackhawks were supposed to be in our wildest dreams, manifesting itself on TV screens.

Regular season wins have since faded into the background of hockey memories occupied by a slew of enough postseason moments to leave just about every other hockey fan base green forever. But every dynasty has its starting points, every championship run has its moment of validation.

And on Nov. 25, 2009, the Blackhawks added Marian Hossa into their lineup for the first time, solidifying the roster that would carve a wide path of destruction through the NHL in the proceeding years.

From all of us at Second City Hockey, we wish you a very, very Happy Thanksgiving. Please, above all else, stay safe!