A Chicago team winning a title at home — is it asking so much?
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Thanks to the Blackhawks, Chicago can’t say it has been deprived of much, sports-wise, the past six years. So who are we to make demands, offer gentle suggestions or send up prayers of supplication?
But, um, it’s just that, well, you know … it would be nice to see a trophy being hoisted on home ice. Not that we’re in any position to ask such a considerable thing! Not us. We don’t want to sound needy or greedy. But, if we might be so forward, the Hawks won their last two Stanley Cups on the road, in Philadelphia in 2010 and in Boston in 2013.
The White Sox won the 2005 World Series in Houston, and the only thing to celebrate there is excessive humidity.
The Cubs have never won a World Series at home. That detail shouldn’t surprise anyone who is familiar with the franchise’s filibuster of woe, yet here I am, stunned by it. They won the 1907 and 1908 titles in Detroit. But inside the borders of our fair city? Never.
The last time a Chicago team won a championship in Chicago was in 1997, when the Bulls and Michael Jordan won the fifth of their six NBA titles, at the United Center.
Eighteen years later and in the same venue, the Hawks have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. They’ll take a 3-2 series lead over the Lightning into Monday night’s game.
May the sports gods strike us down for our impertinence but … wouldn’t it be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice to see the Blackhawks skating with the Cup over their heads in front of a stadium full of red?
Not surprisingly, the Hawks were trying to be all business after their thrilling 2-1 Game 5 victory Saturday in Tampa. Listen to captain Jonathan Toews go from excitement to cliché in response to a reporter’s question about the possibility of winning the Cup at home:
“It’s great. We’re excited about the opportunity. It’s what we’ve worked for. Again, like (Saturday), we didn’t want to think forward to the next game. And even earlier in the series, it’s kind of been the talk, ‘Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.’
“So we’ll go into the next one with, obviously, the preparation and expectation that we’re going to play our best game of the year, knowing the opportunity that we have, but we take it one shift at a time, one period at a time and don’t think about the end result and just keep working.’’
Chicagoans, on the other hand, will work to tamp their enthusiasm down to religious-experience levels. And it won’t work. If you’ve paid attention to the emotional peaks and valleys that have come with this series, then you know a chance to clinch at home has Hawks fans ready to write in coach Joel Quenneville for mayor. Only a few days earlier, they wanted to deport goalie Corey Crawford.
The Hawks would be silly to talk about a huge home-ice advantage in a series in which both teams have won on the road (the Hawks twice). But they will talk about the adrenaline boost that comes with playing at the United Center.
“Our fans back in Chicago are extremely passionate,’’ said forward Patrick Sharp, who will be remembered as the beneficiary of the Ben Bishop-Victor Hedman mash-up in Game 5. “You guys have been in the city throughout the series. You see the red jerseys. You see the support we have behind us.
“The United Center is a big building, we pack it every night, whether it’s a preseason game, playoff game. Can’t wait to get back there, use that energy. I know it filters down through the team.’’
Said Quenneville: “The buzz will be off the charts.’’
The Lightning don’t – and shouldn’t – care.
“The series is not over,’’ defenseman Anton Stralman said. “We’re a confident group. We won (at the UC) the other night. We do feel very comfortable, confident on the road. That’s all (we’re) focused on right now. It’s not over. We know we can win.”
Anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of hockey knows that Tampa Bay has been the Hawks’ equal. In a series in which each of the five games has been decided by one goal, it would be silly to suggest that the jet-engine roar of the United Center will have the Lightning scrambling for shelter.
But wouldn’t it be nice if, at the end of another breathless game between two great teams, the Stanley Cup were to get a chance to stretch its legs on the ice?
Eyes cast downward, hands fidgeting, Chicago asks for more.