Toews and Kane and Chicago's Ten Best Sports Duos

Toews and Kane and Chicago's Ten Best Sports Duos
Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull revived the Blackhawks in the 1960's

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane's new contacts will keep them in Chicago through 2023. Each signed an eight year, $84 million contact extension.

Their leadership in helping Blackhawks win two Stanley Cup titles are exceeded only by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in the last 70 years. Chicago has been very fortunate to have many duos come through town that have led our teams to a variance of success.

1) Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (1987-93, 95-98)

Toews and Kane might get to Jordan and Pippen's level, but no one else is even close. Their run through the NBA is remarkable and given the era and the ease to which they won titles when they were together.

Beginning with their first NBA title in 1991, the Bulls won 25 of their last 26 playoff series with Jordan and Pippen together. Jordan won MVP's in five of those six seasons and all six playoff series.

Jordan holds so many playoff records its too many to list them all. Pippen holds the all-time playoff record for steals. The television ratings for the Bulls in their six trips to the NBA finals were exceeded only by the Celtic-Laker matchups of the 1980s.

Jordan's arrival in Chicago in 1984 coincided with the Bears rise. The Bulls first title in 1991 was also the final year the Ditka led Bears made the playoffs. Once Ditka was fired in 1992, Chicago became a Bulls town for the next six years.

2) Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane (2007- Present)

Before Kane and Toews arrival in 2007 the Blackhawks were an afterthought on sports radio. Bringing up Hockey on a Sports talk show by either fans or hosts were mocked.

With their arrival, the Blackhawks fortune and interest began to turn around gradually. Kane won the Calder Trophy as the Rookie of the Year in 2007-08 and Toews finished third. They were not eliminated from the playoffs until the last game of the season.

In just their second season in the league, they led the Blackhawks to the Eastern Conference Finals. By year three they breezed through the Western Conference playoffs on their way to their first Stanley Cup finals appearance in 18 years.

Kane scored the game winning goal in overtime in Game Six in Philadelphia and Toews won the Conn Smythe award as the Playoff MVP.

It took the Blackhawks three years to get back to the top. After a lockout, the Blackhawks had an unfathomable 24 game point streak to begin the season. They won 21 and lost three games in the shootout.

The 2013 playoff run was more difficult than the 2010 one. They had to come from three games to one down against Detroit to capture the series in seven games.

From there they would face defending Champion Los Angeles in the Western Conference Finals. Up three games to one and looking to close out the Kings at home in game five, Kane and Toews enjoyed their most iconic moment together.

In a two on one, Toews passed to Kane who scored in overtime to send the Blackhawks back the Stanley Cup Finals.

In one of the most memorable games in Chicago Sports History, the Blackhawks scored two goals in 17 seconds in the third period to win 3-2 over Boston and capture their second Stanley Cup in four years.

Toews assisted on the game tying goal and Kane went on to win the Conn Smythe.

3) Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita (1959-72)

Mikita and Hull put the Blackhawks on the map and made them Chicago's most popular team through the 1960's and early 70's. Hull joined the Blackhawks in 1957-58. After playing in three games in 1958-59, Mikita joined the Hawks fulltime for the 1959-60 season.

They would play 13 seasons together.  If not for Arthur Wirtz's refusal to pay Hull, they probably would had another seven or eight years together. Hull's departure to Winnipeg for a then unheard of $1 million drove many Hawks fans away.

Only their first season together was a losing one. The Blackhawks went 28-29-13 in 1960. A year later they finished just five games over .500 but won their only Stanley Cup in a 73 year span.

In that span, Hull led the leading in goals seven times. points three times and even strength goals six times. He also became the first NHL player to score more than 50 goals in a season. He scored 54 in 1966. He would again eclipse 50 when scored 52 the following year. He broke his own record with 58 in 1968.

Mikita led the league four times in points and three times in assists playing with Hull. They led the league in scoring seven times combined in the 1960's.

The Sun-Times' Mark Potash wrote a great article comparing Toews and Kane to Hull and Mikita after they won the Stanley Cup in 2013. In the piece, Potash had some great information about how both duos revived previous irrelevant franchises.

"The Hawks had finished last or next-to-last in 11 of 12 seasons before Hull and Mikita became teammates in 1958-59...They combined to win the Hart Trophy four consecutive seasons as the NHL’s most valuable player (Hull in ’65 and ’66; Mikita in ’67 and ’68).

4) Gary Barnett and Pat Fitzgerald (1991-95)

When using a coach and player its obvious that Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan accomplished significantly more than Barnett and Fitzgerland. No coach-tandem might be more important to their program or franchise in Chicago History before Barnett took the purple to Pasadena.

When Barnett was hired and muttered that he would "take the purple to Pasadena" no one believed he really would or could. After going just 8-24-1 in his first three seasons in Evanston, Barnett led Northwestern to one of the most magical seasons in Chicago sports in 1995.

The Wildcats began the season with a 17-15 upset victory at Notre Dame. The Wildcats would follow that up later in the season with another upset win at Michigan and wins over number 24 Wisconsin and number 12 Penn State under the lights at Dyche Stadium.

Fitzgerald led the defense and was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 1995 and 1996.

NU improbably won the Big Ten in 1995 and went to their first Bowl of any kind since the 1949 Rosebowl. It was their first winning season since 1971 and the first time they had won more than four games in a season in the same time frame.

Fitzgerald returned to Northwestern as an assistant under Randy Walker in 2001. He became the Head Coach of NU when Walked suddenly passed away in the summer of 2006.

He led them to five consecutive bowl games from 2008-12 and to their first bowl victory since the '49 Rosebowl in the 2012 Gator Bowl.

He is the perfect coach for Northwestern and always concludes an interview with "Go Cats"

5) Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox (1956-62)

Picture courtesy of Lists that Actually Matter.

Picture courtesy of Lists that Actually Matter.

When Aparicio joined the White Sox in 1956, Fox had already been at mainstay at second base for the previous six season. Fox and Chico Carrasquel had teamed up to form one of the American League's best double play combinations.

Aparicio made an immediate impact on the South Side and with him the GoGo White Sox were formed. Aparicio led the American League in Stolen bases his first nine years in the league. The first six were with the White Sox.

He and Fox teamed to lead the White Sox to their first AL Pennant since 1918 in the 1959 season. The 1959 season was their pinnacle. Fox won the AL MVP, Fox and Aparicio finished first and second in the MVP voting and teammate Early Wynn finished third.

The White Sox lost the World Series in six games to the Dodgers.

Fox finished his career with 12 All-Star Game appearances, six finished in the top ten in MVP voting and three gold gloves. Aparicio finished with ten gold gloves and ten all-star game appearances in addition to the stolen base titles.

6) Jeremy Roenick and Chris Chelios (1990-96)

Like Toews and Kane now, Roenick and Chelios were the cornerstones of very good Blackhawks teams during their tenure together. Chelios came to Chicago after the Blackhawks had lost in two straight conference finals.

The Chicago native came home in a trade from the Canadiens for Montreal Native Denis Savard. Chelios gave stability and star power to an aging blue line.

Roenick had accumulated 84 points in 98 games before Chelios came to Chicago.

In their first season together, The Blackhawks won the President''s Trophy for the best regular season record. Roenick finished second on the Blackhawks with 94 points. It was his first 90 point season. Chelios had 64 with 12 goals and 52 assists.

The Blachawks finished the season with a 49-23-8 record and 107 points. The Blackhawks entered the first round a heavy favorite over the Minnesota North Stars. Minnesota finished the season just 68 points. Minnesota won the last three games of the series to record a monumental 4-2 series upset.

A year later the Blackhawks dropped to just 87 points in the regular season. After falling behind 2-1 in the first round to St. Louis, the Blackhawks began one of the most amazing playoff runs in history.

The won the final three games of the opening series to eliminate the Blues 4-2. They faced regular season division champion Detroit in the Norris Division finals. They won the first two games in Detroit by 2-1 and 3-1 margins to return to Chicago up 2-0. After winning game three 4-3, the Blackhawks had a chance to close out the series on home ice. A Greg Gilbert goal with 1:34 left in the third period put the Blackhawks in front and the sweep of the Red Wings. They Game was Ed Belfour's first playoff shutout.

The Blackhawks would then sweep nemesis Edmonton in the conference finals. After winning the first two games at home, a Jeremy Roenick overtimes goal in game three at Edmonton put the Blackhawks on the verge of the sweep. The Oilers had knocked the Blackhawks out of the conference finals in 1983, 85 and 90.

When they won game four, the Blackhawks had extended their post season winning streak to 11 games. That advanced them to their first Stanley Cup finals since 1973.

The Blackhawks won the division again in 1993 and had the best record in the Western Conference. They were swept in the division final by St. Louis 4-0.

They lost again in the conference quarterfinals in 1994 to Toronto. That was their last season at Chicago Stadium but moving to the United Center. The following season they advanced to the conference finals where they lost to Detroit. Three of the games went to overtime, including two to 2ot.

In 1996 they were eliminated by Colorado in the conference semifinals. Chelios and Roenick finished the 1996 season 1-2 on the Hawks in scoring.

After years of battling management, Roenick was traded to Phoenix that offseason for Alexei Zhamnov. Although Zhamnov was a solid player for the Hawks, the team never seemed to recover from getting rid of JR. In his eight seasons with the Hawks, Zhamov could only lead them to two playoff appearances and no series wins.

Chelios was traded in 1999 and it took until Toews and Kane's arrivals to turn the Hawks around.

7) Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus (1965-71)

Although the team never enjoyed much success with Sayers sparked the offense and Butkus dominating on defense, these two Hall of Famers were drafted together in 1965.

Sayers played primarily five seasons from '65-'69. His knee injury in 1968 against San Francisco limited Sayers for the rest of his career. Sayers would retire after playing only two games each in 1970 and 71. Butkus retired because of his own injuries two years later.

The many moments that both Butkus and Sayers provided left fans still wondering what coul have been. Their tenure is arguably one of the darkest in Bears history.

8) Ernie Banks and Billy Williams (and Ron Santo)

Banks was in his eighth season when Santo and Williams their debuts in 1960. Its hard to separate these three. Santo and Williams would play ten full seasons with Banks.

It took them until their fourth season together before having a winning season. It would be another three before they were able to duplicate it.

The began an unprecedented six consecutive winning seasons in the modern era. The 1969 team infamously blew a lead late in the season that would have led the Cubs first post season appearance since 1945.

All three were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It took Santo until 2012 when he was inducted posthumously.

9) Jerry Sloan and Norm Van Lier (1971-76)

Before Jordan, Pippen and the doberman's, Sloan and Van Lier played suffocating defense that led the Bulls to early success in the 1970's.

Sloan was the first Bull when he was selected in the expansion draft from the Baltimore Bullets in 1966.

Van Lier was traded to the Bulls in 1971 from Cincinnati.

Coming off a 50 win season under Dick Motta, the Bulls ran off three more 50 win seasons in Van Lier's first three seasons. They advanced to the Western conference finals in 1974 and 75.

The fell off to 28 victories in 1976 with Sloan hurt. He would retire following the season.

They Bulls had limited success led by Artis Gilmore and Reggie Theus before Jordan's arrival in 1984.

Sloan would later coach the Bulls before becoming a Hall of Fame coach with Utah. Van Lier was the Bulls legendary studio analyst during the Jordan era.

10) Bob Love and Chet Walker (1969-75)

With Sloan and Van Lier provided the defense in the backcourt, Love and Walker provided the scoring at the forwards for Matta.

Walker averaged 20.6 PPG in his six season with the Bulls. Love averaged 21.2 PPG with the Bulls and between 19.2 and 25.2

They combined to average at least 40 points per game from 1969-75.

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