When I think about the Blackhawks now, I think about my parents and “Remember the Roar!”
By RA Monaco
N A PLAQUE, located behind a statue of the Blackhawk’s greatest players on the north side of the United Center, you’ll see the words “Chicago Stadium—1929-1994—Remember the Roar.” The Chicago Stadium is where my parents met on a “blind date” during a Chicago Blackhawks game—how cool is that?
The Chicago Stadium was demolished in 1995 and is now a parking lot for the United Center —The Madhouse on Madison—across the street from where the coveted Lord Stanley currently resides.
The Blackhawks played their first game at the Chicago Stadium on December 15, 1929 defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-1 in front of 14, 212 fans—my father would have been nine and mother eleven.
Architecturally considered state-of-the-art when it was built, I suppose both my father and I owe thanks to a man named Paddy Harmon for the existence of the Chicago Stadium. A local sports promoter, Paddy wanted to bring big-time hockey to Chicago so he built the Chicago Stadium after Major Frederic McLoughlin beat him to the punch by acquiring Chicago’s NHL franchise.
The Blackhawks are one of the “Original Six” NHL franchise teams along with the Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leaf, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers.
We played hockey on a pond
Sometimes—probably more often than we realize—certain things in life are decided for us and looking back, my fondness for the Blackhawks might be a good example.
In our minds, we were always wearing number 7 and every slap-shot was off the stick of “The Golden Jet”–Bobby Hull later switched to number 9, a tribute to Gordie Howe.
Just banging into one another
As a teenager, I worked until 2 a.m. making pizzas with lifelong friends Jimmy Sorce, Leo Di Domenico and his bother Mark. Leading from the pizza oven back into the kitchen was a 3’ wide hall about 20’ long and on the other side of the wall were several booths for patrons. The wall on the patron’s side was covered with 8”x 10” black and white photographs of Blackhawk players.
Out of the patron’s view in that narrow hall, was where many imaginary slap-shots, face-offs and a lot of real body-checking took place—often startling patrons and shaking photos off their side of the wall.
A broom could usually be found at one or the other end of the narrow passage and kicking a wad of paper— or whatever became the imagined puck—was the equivalent of digging-it-out-of-the-corner. There was always going to be a body-check and depending on how busy we were at the time, “Big Leo” could keep you on the boards if you didn’t get off a good shot.
When we got a little older, Jimmy would rent the Ridgeway Hockey Rink and in the middle of the night after work we’d play—we closed at 2 a.m. One night, I recall getting a one-on-one breakaway and falling on my face before I could get a shot-on-goal. Mostly, we were just banging into one another and I’m sure no one was there scouting for the NHL in the middle of the night.
What stands out in my memory
Although I never played organized hockey, I’ve always enjoyed watching the game on TV—particularly the past five years.
As a journalist, I covered college hockey for the North American Hockey Digest and the Blackhawks briefly for The Hockey Writers blog-site.
Honestly, I can’t pretend to understand all the decisions a coach makes during a hockey game, but this year when the Blackhawks took on the Anaheim Ducks during the Western Conference Finals, the genius of Coach Joel Quenneville is what stands out in my memory.
We’ve read about the goal scoring of defensemen Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, rookie Teuvo Teravainen and even fourth-line center Marcus Kruger. We heard plenty about Blackhawk stars Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and now Brandon Saad. Certainly, Chicago should hoist goalie Corey Crawford onto their shoulders—he was brilliant.
Nothing can, or should be taken away from these Blackhawk players—they earned the Stanley Cup, convincingly!
The Anaheim Ducks series
The Blackhawks began by eliminating the Nashville Predators in six games only to be matched-up against the hottest team in the Western Conference—the Minnesota Wild—the team that had eliminated the division champion St. Louis Blues.
In my eyes, when the Blackhawks faced off against the number-one seeded Anaheim Ducks was when the genius of Coach Q started to shine.
The Blackhawks dropped the opener 4-1 losing to the much more physical Ducks. They came back to tie the series at a game apiece 16 minutes into the third overtime of that second game—that was 116 minutes of mental toughness and the defining minutes of the entire playoffs when the Blackhawks truly showed they were champions.
Coach Quenneville went to school in during those three OT periods, which paid dividends in the second OT of game 4 and again in the match-ups he sought with his line changes through games 6 and 7.
Six games into the final series the Blackhawks ended the 2015 Tampa Bay Lightning’s season, winning the Stanley Cup.
Clearly, back in September, Las Vegas odds makers showed that they knew what they’re doing when they set the line at 13/2 for the Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup.
I’ve learned that you really can’t fully grasp the genius of Coach Q’s work watching a single game. What I’ll remember most about the 2015 Stanley Cup, is that series with the Anaheim Ducks when Coach Q played a perfect hand.
The Blackhawks have three Stanley Cup titles under Coach Joel Norman Quenneville and when I think about the Blackhawks these days, I think about my parents and “Remember the Roar!”