A Look into the FutureSure, it's been less than one week since the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime to win the 2010 Stanley Cup. That was the franchise's first league championship since 1961. Last Friday, the City of Chicago hosted a fantastic parade and rally in hot and humid weather to celebrate our returning hockey heroes. The team, complete with the Stanley Cup in tow, made appearances around the city, at the final game of the Cubs/White Sox series at Wrigley Field, and even an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Since Chicago rarely claims professional sports championships, I am trying my best to soak it in and make every moment last. Still, I can't help but look into the future five, maybe 10 years.
So what do I see down the road for the Blackhawks? Will they string together several Stanley Cup titles? Will they make a run like the Chicago White Sox did in 2005 when they won the World Series then faded away? It's too early to tell, but I think we can compare this era of Blackhawks hockey to two different teams in Chicago sports. One is good while the other could have been. Let's look at the Bears of the 1980s, and the Bulls of the 1990s. With Walter Payton running the ball and the 46 Defense, the Bears would claim a Super Bowl title for the 1985 season. Behind the acrobatics of Michael Jordan and solid defense of Scottie Pippen, the Bulls won six NBA titles with three between 1991 and 1993 and three more between 1996 and 1998. Both eras were exciting, but they produced very radically different legacies.
When the Bears pounded the New England Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX, it appeared the Bears would become the next great football dynasty like the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s. Surely a string of NFL titles would follow. Sadly, the Bears wouldn't appear in another championship game until Super Bowl XLI. And for the record, they lost that one to the Indianapolis Colts. Almost immediately, the Bears players lost sight of their goal and were easily distracted by the temptations away from the game. If they could have won a few more titles, they could have been the Team of the 1980s. Joe Montana and Jerry Rice kept winning and easily stole that title from the Bears.
As the late 1980s became the early 1990s, the Chicago Bulls knew they had something special. Michael Jordan was on the verge of transforming from an exciting young player into the greatest NBA player of all time. For years, they battled the Detroit Pistons and fell short. Finally, in 1991 they broke through and dethroned the Pistons to advance to the NBA Finals. In their first trip to the finals, they defeated Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers. Not content with just one title, they made minor moves and defeated the Portland Trailblazers in 1992 and the Phoenix Suns in 1993. Jordan retired for almost two seasons, and they failed to reach the finals in 1994 and 1995. But, when Jordan returned in 1996, another three titles were earned against the Seattle Supersonics and twice against the Utah Jazz.
So which path will the Blackhawks follow? Will financial concerns break apart the team? Can they make the necessary moves to add to an already exciting young team? Will Patrick Kane learn to control his celebrity and remain on the straight and narrow?
Only time will tell.