Here's a funny little story: a while back, the Chowdah staff all answered a question about what our second favorite NHL team was, with a bit of an explanation as to why. Ethics of having a ‘second favorite team' aside, the results were pretty interesting -- a number of us (spoiler, NOT Sarah or Cornelius) picked a little team called the Chicago Blackhawks. In fact, so many of us did that I, who had also picked them, changed my answer so that there would be some variety.
Now, I don't think a single one of us at the time was thinking ‘gee, this will be awkward/funny if the Bruins and Hawks end up playing each other for the Stanley Cup!' But they did, and it was heartstopping and crazy and stressful and glorious and, in the end, abruptly heartbreaking. But a couple days removed from the sting and the shock of game 6's loss, I can't help but think about that -- the fondness and respect for Chicago I took into this Final, and how it changed (or didn't) over the course of six crazy and emotional games.
You can never tell how a series is going to play out, what rivalries will emerge and what flashpoints will become the talked about moments long after the games are finished. I'm not sure anyone would have predicted that it would be Bergeron and Malkin throwing down, for example, during the ECF. Injuries and heroic shifts and startling hits can never be predicted, nor can the tenor of emotion that inevitably overtake us as fans be guessed at. I don't know what I thought this was going to be like when it started -- I only knew that I was equal parts humbled and terrified. I still couldn't believe that the Bruins had made it to the final (again!), especially after beating the Penguins in the fashion they did. I also was so worried that the Hawks -- as unfamiliar to the B's as the rest of the west this year -- would just destroy the Bruins.
I also didn't know how my love of players like Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook would hold up when those dudes were standing between my Bruins and the Cup. How quickly would respect and admiration descend into bitterness and hate, as sometimes happen in a particularly hard-fought series?
I kept thinking it would. I kept waiting for it. Any second now, I was going to start loathing the Blackhawks and their entire stupid team.
Spoiler: I never did.
Now, personally, I would almost rather hate the team that beats the Bruins -- it makes it easier, somehow, when dealing with the sting of disappointment, to rail irrationally against the team that beat you (‘sup, Leafs fans). But here we are, four days later, and amidst the sadness and the shock and the disappointment and the anger at the media/other fans/lapses in play/myself for caring too much, I still don't feel any real rancor directed towards Chicago's team.
Today, the Hawks and Bill Wirtz put out this ad in the Boston Globe. I hate to use the word classy, because ugh, but the ad sort of summed up my feelings about this series.
Basically, it comes down to this (and I speak only for myself here, obviously):
I hate (hate) that the Bruins lost, but if they were going to, I don't hate that the Hawks won.
I like the Hawks' moxie. I like their talent. I like Patrick Sharp's face. I like Patrick Kane's soft hands. I like that, when they talked about Bruins players, it was with genuine respect for their abilities -- unlike some other teams (*coughPittsburghcough*). I like that the respect lasted up to the end of the series, despite some bumpy moments along the way.
(I could talk about my feelings about the Bruins' post-season run, but really, Sarah said it better than I ever could. Thank you Bruins, indeed.)
Some Hawks fans who have been hanging around the blog have mentioned it, but this is a matchup I wouldn't mind seeing again and again.
This is an overlong way of saying something relatively simple, and something that, for my part, is several days overdue:
To the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks, a worthy opponent if ever there was one: thanks for a fantastic series, and congratulations to you (and your fans) on winning the Stanley Cup. It was a hell of a ride.