Crazy how much change can change in a few years, isn’t it?
That was the overall thought parading through my head as I sat in the 300 Level at the United Center last Thursday when the Chicago Blackhawks hosted the Seattle Kraken, a game that left plenty of time for daydreams because of how dismal the on-ice product was that night.
It was my first in-person Hawks game since the pandemic started and I spent so much of that night recounting how different everything is now. That ‘19-20 Hawks team had Corey Crawford in net. Brandon Saad was still around. So was Duncan Keith. Adam Boqvist hadn’t been traded yet and neither had Lucas Carlsson — who’s affording himself quite well with the Florida Panthers. More than that, though, were all the changes behind the scenes, most as a result of the horrendous missteps by the Blackhawks’ organization all those years ago.
While some staples remained — Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Jim Cornelison on the Anthem, Gene Honda on the PA — having two years away from the UC served as an unmistakable reminder that the Cup era is long gone, further exacerbated by Marian Hossa being in the press box in street clothes and the news of his No. 81 being retired announced that night.
I know this isn’t exactly earth-shattering news, that the Blackhawks’ glory days of the 2010s are well behind us. But I left the UC that night with the feeling that the Blackhawks aren’t leaning on those memories as much anymore, that the team is genuinely looking to move in a new direction for the 2020s. Whether or not that venture proves fruitful is something we can yell about for the next eight years.
The lack of buzz in the building during the gameplay was also a stark reminder of how different things are now. Much of that can likely be chalked up to the wretched performance against a freaking expansion team from that night. But there were times where it felt like the fans in the seats were mostly indifferent to the action on the ice — and who can blame them? The most inspired noises emanating from the crowd that night were boos at the end of every period.
It felt so foreign to be inside that lifeless building when that same venue was almost always brimming with energy for so many nights in a past that shouldn’t feel as ancient as it does sometimes. Maybe it was just a bad game on a bad night. Maybe it was a sign of what’s to come. Maybe it isn’t. I don’t know. But it felt a lot more like 2002 than 2022 that night.
Well, except for the age on my driver’s license.
The Week That Was
Really a smorgasbord of results over the last little run. A few blowouts against clearly superior teams. A couple of abysmal efforts against fellow bottom-feeders. And then Sunday night’s gong show. They’re nothing if not inconsistent.
Where Idols Once Stood
Haven’t seen the source for the decision reported anywhere, but full marks to whomever it was who suggested bringing Dale Tallon back for a night as color analyst alongside Pat Foley for Sunday’s game against the Stars.
Tallon’s name has been embedded in arguments for the last decade-plus because of the never-ending debate of who deserves credit for the creation of the Blackhawks’ dynasty. It’s exhausting at this point, an argument that never goes anywhere because those who’ve chosen a side in that debate are so firmly embedded in their stances by now that they aren’t going to budge and those of us who wish to explore the nuance in the middle end up shouted down by the voices on the opposite ends of the topic — still talking about hockey here, folks.
But before all of that, Tallon was a Blackhawks player and a Blackhawks broadcaster and was adored by legions of fans for his time spent in each role. Sunday’s broadcast showed a few clips from the Foley/Tallon era — with one obvious omission — and allowed those of us who grew up with that duo a change to lean into that nostalgia one more time. We got Tallon’s unfiltered opinion on several current Blackhawks and even a rant on the officiating in the final minute of the game, just for old time’s sake.
The most interesting part came when Foley shared the story from the 2010 Stanley Cup celebration in a locker room in Philadelphia, which included a call from all of the players to Tallon, who was unceremoniously demoted from his GM role in 2009 before heading to Florida in May 2010. It was indicative of the beloved figure that Tallon became in every role he had with the Blackhawks — just ask Martin Havlat. And, for a night, it was great to have that trip down memory lane.
Similar to the initial section of this article, though, bringing Tallon back for one night during the final week of Foley’s 40-plus years on the job was yet another reminder that this team is going somewhere else now.
Hopefully it’s as fun as where it’s been.
Since this entire post appears to be full of nods to the past, let’s run through one other hot nostalgia topic: retired numbers.
Hossa’s No. 81 will head to the UC rafters next season and will certainly be joined by Nos. 2, 19 and 88 in the future. But who else should get this treatment?
For my money, any player who was around for all three Cups deserves it, so add in Nos. 4, 7 and 10. Toss in a joint ceremony with Chris Chelios when Seabrook’s number goes up, if you like.
The only other player I’d argue for — and I cannot deny a heavy personal bias is here — is Corey Crawford’s No. 50, if for not other reason than to finally give Crawford the level of treatment he deserved in a career where he was so criminally underrated.
Oh, and get No. 28 up there as well.
The Week That Will Be
Only 10 games left, folks. We can get through this.
Tuesday, April 12 vs. Los Angeles Kings
Thursday, April 14 vs. San Jose Sharks
Saturday, April 16 at Nashville Predators
Kitty chases Fiddy
Don’t think we’re gonna make it.
Last Week: 5 games, 1 goal
Season Totals: 72 games, 39 goals
Current Pace: (39 goals / 72 games played) * 82 games = 44.42 goals