By: Mike Asti
As I did following Griffey’s surprising retirement from baseball earlier this month, I want to take time out to pay the athletic respects to another great player of my generation, this time in hockey. Rob Blake officially announced that this past season, his 20th in the NHL, was his last and he is retiring as a player. While unlike Griff this was not exactly shocking news since he had nothing left to play for and just finished another long playoff run. However, when an athlete of his stature calls it quits it is important to reflect upon why this was man was in fact great.
Rob Blake flew under the radar for most of his career. This even happened when playing his prime seasons in the second biggest market in the country, Los Angeles. The reason for this is simple actually, he played in perhaps the best era in NHL history for defensemen. Legends such as Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Pronger, and Scott Niedermayer manned the blue line in the last 20 years and are all going to the Hall of Fame someday. While unlike how enshrinement is constantly discussed in terms of their careers, Blake is also worthy of the honor but doesn’t get the hype. I placed him as an honorable mention for the last decades best and that wasn’t even the best 10 year period of his career. Read more
By: Mike Asti
After one of the more unpredictable playoffs in hockey history, the Stanley Cup has been awarded. The recipient Marian Hossa and the Chicago Blackhawks. Any follower of this blog would know I included Hossa in my cursed filled article before this post-season about potential jinxes that could make Hell freeze over if they end. Well someone go ask Hitler if it’s hailing in the land of eternal damnation, Hell may now be frozen.
No more are the jokes about a curse or becoming the answer to that pain filled trivia question, the only player in a sport to lose a championship final 3 years in a row as a member of 3 different teams. Hossa proved the old adage is true, third time is indeed a charm. After falling in the Cup Final each of the past 2 seasons with Pittsburgh and Detroit, Hossa claims his ring and cements his legacy. The hockey Gods smiled down and allowed him to win the Stanley Cup with Chicago.
A lose in the finals would have made Hossa the only notable athlete to lose in his sports championship final 3 years in a row with 3 different teams, he already is the only NHL guy to even appear in the finals 3 years in a row with a different squad each season. However, like Don Baylor (86 RedSox loss, 87 Twins win, 88 Athletics loss) and Eric Hinske (07 RedSox win, 08 Rays loss, 09 Yanks win) before him who both played on 3 consecutive pennant winners while on 3 different teams in baseball, Hossa takes home at least 1 ring. Does Hossa now become part of the NHL’s next dynasty and make all of us forget about this previous failures? Only time will tell, however, with the young talent and long contracts on that is certainly a possibility.
This title came after a hard fought 6th game that saw Philly tie it up in the final minutes to force an over time session and pull at Hossa and all of Blackhawk nation heart strings. It seemed poetic justice when with 20 seconds on the clock Hossa dashed out to yet another breakaway, would he score this time and win? No, he fanned on a wide open shot at Leighton. This was the same image that we saw from Marian each of the past two seasons as he attempted to tie the cup clinching game and save his teams seasons. Like the last two years he came up short but unlike those past failures his team bailed him out from being the ultimate goat. Quickly into the first and only extra period one of the faces of this up and coming franchise sends a blast from the wing side right under the Philly net minder and breaks the long Chicago cup drought. Hossa wiped the sweat from his brow and threw the monkey off his back as the team often labeled the “Baby Hawks” celebrate in jubilation. As predicted and well deserving a Hawk cup win would see captain Jonathan Toews win the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP. After receiving that trophy and the cup he would then pass hockeys holy grail off to the ultimate runner up and now champion, Marian Hossa.
Moving on from Hossa, as I’m actually sick of discussing him at this point, there was one other curse finally lifted following the Blackhawks championship. That of course is the ending of a 49 year title drought for the Chicago hockey franchise. As one of the original 6 Chicago hoists the cup for only the fourth time ever this year and for the first time since 1961. That season Bobby Hull was only 22 and assumed he sip from the cup several more times before calling it a career. He was wrong. his team would rack up a few more appearances but that would be the only ring he would win. Hopefully Toews, also 22, captain of this years champion Hawk team, can learn from the past and relish this moment, just ask the elder Hull there is no guarantee it will ever come again.
Regardless if Toews ever plays another game he is already apart of some very elite company in terms of his sport. Only 24 players in history are a member of the prestigious Triple Gold Club. To join this club you must win an adult World Championship, Olympic Gold Medal, and Stanley Cup. The likes of Niklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, Chris Pronger, Jaromir Jagr, Eric Staal, and Peter Forsberg just to name a few, now have company, Jonathan Toews.
Congratulations to the 2009-2010 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks!