The championship season may be over, but the joyous memories remain. But for how long? And precisely what will we remember from the 2010 Blackhawks season? If you're a long-time, devout fan of the Hawks and the game of hockey itself, you may always remember a certain feed to Patrick Kane in front of the goal, maybe a specific Antti Niemi block or perhaps a quintessential Dustin Byfuglien check.
But, for the common fan, the images that will materialize in, say, 10 years will probably be a little broader, though no less thrilling. Here are the 2010 Blackhawks memories that I believe will endure deep into the future of our collective memory. How do they jibe with yours? The same? Different? Post a comment and let me know.
No. 1: Kane's Goal In Game 6
The puck vanished. It was gone. Floating somewhere between the hopelessness of 49 years and the astonishing thrill of every MJ-era Bulls championship and the White Sox '05 pitching staff's dominance lie the fate of the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks. For several, long moments we all drifted in a purgatory of indecision -- wanting to explode but fearing the disappointment (and, quite frankly, the embarrassment) of being wrong. But Kane knew, and soon every single one of us did, too. And, when we look back, this is what we'll remember: The astonishingly odd, delayed conclusion to one of the greatest seasons in Chicago sports history.
No. 2: The Parade
What is a championship about if not us? Well, of course it's about the team but, when we look back, we'll have no memories of hurtling across the ice, taking a shot on goal or burying Chris Pronger in the boards. We'll remember where we watched the games and what we did (and who we were with) after the cup was secured. And the victory parade on Friday, June 11, was the perfect display of Chicago's pride (and joy) in its championship hockey team. Kris Versteeg's rap. Kane's homage to cab drivers. A sea of red and black engulfing Michigan Ave. and the surrounding streets. These are the memories that will endure for most of us.
No. 3: Keith's Teeth
Every so often, a championship team will have a pure, visceral symbol of their struggle to glory. The one that keeps coming to my mind is Curt Schilling's bloody sock in Game Six of the 2004 ALCS. For the 2010, it's Keith's Teeth. In Game Three of the Western Conference Finals vs. the San Jose Sharks, Duncan Keith took a direct hit to his pearly whites by a puck that had just been cleared following a penalty kill. He lost seven teeth and, fittingly enough, was back on the ice seven minutes later. When we all look back and smile on this year's great Stanley Cup win, we'll think about Keith's broken smile and the remarkable sacrifice he made (not to mention his great sense of humor about it at the parade).
No. 4: Pronger
Every good story needs a good villain - and the Philadelphia Flyers' Chris Pronger was perfect. The crafty veteran who knows every trick move and penalty avoidance scam known to professional hockey. He schmoozed up the refs after games. He stole pucks, for God's sake. Even his name - "Pronger" - sounds like something out of a screenplay for a Mad Max sequel. It will be interesting to see whether history also reflects that Pronger was a solid, knowledgeable hockey lifer who Chicago would have surely embraced wholeheartedly for his tenaciousness and game savvy (a la Dennis Rodman or A.J. Pierzynski). What we will remember is that he was Public Enemy No. 1 -- and we'll savor the memory (and, if it survives, the YouTube clip) of Buff knocking him to the ice in Game Five.
No. 5: The Cubs-Sox Near No-No's
The contrast between the Hawks and Chicago's two major league ball clubs remains, as of this writing, striking. Neither the Cubs nor the Sox are anywhere near the .500 mark, and the probability that either club will somehow rally to make the postseason is very low. But when we look back on the days following the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup championship, we'll remember how the team paid a visit to both baseball organizations at an interleague game at Wrigley Field in June, and we'll recall how the mere presence of Coach Q, Kaner, Toews, et al. drove the struggling Cubs and Sox to play one of the greatest games in their respective histories. Did the Hawks really inspire two near no-no's and a thrilling ninth inning finish? Maybe. Maybe not. But that's how we'll remember it: In the presence of champions, we all elevate our games.