The Blackhawks have had one of the most magical seasons in Chicago history. Their historical 24 game streak of not losing a game in regulation to begin the season and hoisting the Stanley Cup at the end rank among the greatest in history of Chicago Sports. All of Chicago's sports teams have had magical or memorable seasons. All but the Cubs have been to their league's Championship round in the last 15 years.
The criteria for one of the best seasons can be varied. Winning a championship is not a pre-requisite, but it separated the teams at the top.
1) 1996 Bulls, 72-10, 15-4 NBA Playoffs, NBA Championship
The most dominant team during the Jordan era. The Bulls had two double digit winning streaks that sandwiched a loss. This came in the middle of the season when the Bulls won 31 out of 32 games. At the conclusion of the second streak, the Bulls were 41-3. Michael Jordan led the league in scoring for the eighth straight year in which he played a full season.
The Bulls blew out the Heat in three straight games in the first round to open the playoffs. They went five with New York in the second round and got revenge on Orlando by sweeping them in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Magic had knocked the Bulls out of the playoffs in the second round in 1995. They carried former Bull Horace Grant off the court after they ousted the Bulls.
The Bulls won the first three games of the NBA Finals against Seattle. Facing the 2-3-2 format (two home, three away, two home), the Bulls dropped the next two at Key Arena. They returned home for game six and won on Father's Day. The clincher was very emotional for Jordan who had lost his father three years prior. The fell just short of their own record tying playoff run (15-2 in 1991) under the current format.
2) 2013 Blackhawks 36-7-5, 77 Points, President's Trophy, 16--7 (8) Stanley Cup Playoffs, Stanley Cup
A lockout cancelled 34 games to begin the season. The Blackhawks began the season in Los Angeles with the Kings hoisting the 2012 Stanley Cup Banner. They scored three goals in the opening period against reigning Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick. They won 5-2 and would go 23 more games without a regulation loss.
They finished the season 35-7-5. Their 77 points were more than they had in four full seasons between 1998-2008. They were on pace to tie the 1977 Montreal Canadiens' record of 132 points in a season.
They finished the seasons second in goals for and first in goals against. The latter earned goalies Corey Crawford and Ray Emery the Jennings trophy.
The playoffs were a much different story. The opened with a five game series victory in the first round against the Minnesota Wild.
The Blackhawks needed a dramatic series comeback against the Detroit Red Wings in the second round. The fell behind three games to one. They dominated game five and then returned to Detroit for game six.
Trailing three games to two and 2-1 after two periods, the Blackhawks staged an epic game five comeback. They scored three straight third period goals before Detroit Answered late. The Hawks hung on for a 4-3 victory and returned home for game seven.
After a Niklas Hjalmarrson goal was dissallowed with 1:47 remaining, Brent Seabrook scored in overtime to advance the Blackhawks to the Stanley cup finals.
NHL realignment has effectively killed the Blackhawks-Red Wings Rivarly. Detroit will join the eastern conference next season. The only way they can meet in the future is in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The core of the Blackhawks is signed for two more seasons except for Crawford. His contract is up at the end of the 2014 season. This team has the capability to make a run for a few more cups.
The Blackhawks dispatched of the defending champion Kings in five games. A dramatic double overtime goal by Patrick Kane in game five game him the hat trick.
Boston formed a formidable for in the finals. The Blackhawks were meeting a second straight recent (2011) Stanley Cup champion in the finals. The Bruins allowed only two goals in a four game Eastern Conference Finals sweep of the Penguins. Pittsburgh led NHL in scoring in 2013.
Game one went to the Blackhawks in triple overtime in the fifth longest Stanley Cup finals game in NHL history. Two more overtime games would occur. None of the finals games were more than a two goal margin.
The Blackhawks saved their greatest comeback for game six. Trailing by a goal with under two minutes remaining, it appeared that the series was headed back to Chicago for game seven. A Brian Bickell goal with 1:16 left tied the score (with Crawford on the bench) and Dave Bolland followed that with the go ahead goal 17 second later.
A diving poke check by Jonathan Toews ran the clock out and gave the Blackhawks their second Stanley Cup in four years.
If the 2010 Stanley Cup season brought the Blackhawks fan base back, the 2013 cup will cement it. Their incredible run to start the season, amazing comeback against Detroit and second amazing comeback in the clincher will be remembered far beyond Chicago. Hockey fans everywhere will remember the Blackhawks run this season.
3) 1985 Bears 15-1, Superbowl Title, Outscored Opponents 91-10 in Playoffs
The most colorful and possibly most revered team in Chicago Sports History. They blitzed through the regular season 15-1. Their lone loss was a week 13 at Miami on Monday Night Football. Starting QB Jim McMahon missed most of the game. The season before, the Bears set an NFL Record with 72 sacks. Walter Payton earned the league MVP in 1985 and Mike Singletary the defensive player of the year.
They posted consecutive shutouts in their NFC Playoff wins over the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams to Shuffle in to the Superbowl. New England scored an early field goal to break the Bears scoreless streak. They nearly held the Patriots without a touchdown, but a late fourth quarter touchdown pass ended almost 12 quarters of keeping the opposing team out of the end zone.
Richard Dent had 2.5 sacks in the Superbowl to earn the Superbowl XX MVP. His selection was controversial. McMahon had 256 yards passing and two rushing touchdowns. The '85 Bears were expected to become a dynasty. They would earn five more postseason appearances, one more NFC championship game appearance and four more division titles but never even made it back to the Superbowl.
No Chicago Championship team has ever endured the popularity of the 1985 Bears.
4) 1942 Bears 11-0, Lost NFL Championship Game
The Bears completed their second undefeated regular season in nine years. They entered the NFL Championship game as the two time defending NFL Champions and were two years removed from defeated Washington 73-0 in the most lopsided championship game in NFL history (a record that still stands).
They had the highest scoring team in the NFL and the least scored upon defense. They outscored opponents by 26.5 PPG during the regular season. They scored 150 more points than the Redskins who finished second in scoring.
The Bears entered the game as much as a 20 point favorite. The Redskins used the 1940 game as a rallying cry. The Bears opened the scoring in the second quarter with a 50 yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Their offense could never get going. An offense that average 350 yards per game in the regular season managed only 188 against Washington. They also committed four turnovers to Washington's two.
The Redskins pulled off the second upset of an undefeated Bears team and won their second NFL Championship. It would be the franchise's last until 1982.
5) 1906 Cubs 116-36, National League Pennant, Tied for Most regular season wins in Major League History
Although they lost the the hitless wonder White Sox in the World Series, the 1906 Cubs remain the winningiest team in National League History. Only the 2001 Seattle Mariners tied the Cubs record of 116 wins in a season. Five pitchers finished with double figures in wins. Four had at least 17 and Mordechai "Three Finger" Brown and Jack Pfiester each won 20 games.
They Cubs won the National League pennant by 20 games over the New York Giants.
The Cubs won 23 more games than the White Sox in 1906. The Cubs scored three runs or less in four of the six games and their batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage were all below .300.
In spite of the loss (and winning the World Series the following two seasons), the 1906 Cubs and their double play combination of Tinkers to Evers to Chance will go down as one of the greatest teams in history.
6) 1934 Bears 13-0, Lost NFL Championship Game
The 1934 Bears were the first team in NFL History to finish a season unbeaten and untied. They traveled to New York to face the 8-5 Giants for the NFL Championship.
This is the game that is known as the "Sneaker Game". The Bears took a 10-3 lead at the half and extended it to 13-3 in the third quarter.
Giants coach Steve Owen had equipment manager Abe Cohen borrow sneakers from Manhattan College at halftime. The Giants exploded for 27 points in the fourth quarter to claim their second NFL Championship.
7) 1997 Bulls 69-13 (tied for second best record in NBA history), NBA Championship
The 1997 Bulls are often forgotten because of what they accomplished the season before. The 1997 remains as the only 70 win team in NBA history.
The Bulls were 68-10 after 78 games. If they won their final four games of the season they would have equaled the 1996 team as the winningiest in NBA history. They lost at Detroit in the 78th game of the season to end and hope for 72 wins.
Their final game of the season was at home against the Knicks. They took a seven point lead into the fourth quarter, but fell by two to finish 69-13. That tied the 1972 Lakers for the second best record ever.
Like the 1996 team, the Bulls blitzed through the first three rounds of the playoffs. The went 11-1 through the Eastern Conference finals. Their only loss was in game four of the Eastern Conference finals at Miami.
The Bulls played the first of two epic finals against Utah. Michael Jordan hit at shot at the buzzer in game one. The Bulls won game two at home, before losing games three and four in Salt Lake City. The won game five and then came home and closed out the series in game six.
8) 2005 White Sox 99-63, 11-1 Playoffs (Tied Record) World Series Championship
The White Sox began the 2005 season 27-9, opened as much as a 15 game lead on August 1 and had to hold on late to win the Central Division. They breezed through the playoffs with a 11-1 record to capture their first World Championship in 88 years.
Pitching and Power was the difference for the World Champions. The White Sox used four consecutive complete games in the ALCS in a five game victory over Anaheim.
They led the league in ERA, Innings pitched and saves and were in the top three in most major categories.
1917 White Sox 100-54 World Series Champions
The 1917 World Series Champions used speed and pitching to capture their second World Championship. They led the American League in pitching and stolen bases. The won the American League Pennant by ten games over the Red Sox. They finished the season 100-54 for the first and only 100 win season in franchise history.
The won the series despite getting shut out in games three and four in New York. They were shut out for 25 consecutive innings stretching from games two through five. They trailed late in game five before scoring three in the seventh and three in the eighth for an 8-5 victory to take a three games to two lead.
The Giants committed 14 errors and the White sox had just a 2.16 ERA in the six game World Series win against the Giants.
10) 1980-82 DePaul
The early 1980's were a dry spell for Chicago Sports. Using WGN-TV as his recruiting base, Ray Meyer built DePaul into a national powerhouse. DePaul basketball was the ticket to get in Chicago.
The Blue Demons went an almost unfathomable 79-3 in the regular season from 1980-82. Each year they entered the tournament as a number one seed. In 1980 and '81 they finished the regular season with the number one ranking in the country. They were coming off a Final Four appearance in 1979.
Shocking losses to UCLA (avenging their West Regional Final loss as a number one seed in 1979), St. Joseph's and Boston College ended each season in shocking fashion.
The 1981 loss to St. Joseph hurt the most. Leading by one with 13 seconds remaining, the Hawks fouled Skip "Money" Dillard. Dillard had a 85.1 free throw percentage in 1981. He missed the front end of a one and one, St. Joe's raced downcourt and John Smith left all alone under the basket layed the ball in to give the Hawks the shocking upset.