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updated: 3/6/2013 8:56 PM

Blackhawks story great, but not on a grand scale

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  • Patrick Sharp, left, Patrick Kane and the rest of the Blackhawks have been a red-hot story, but it probably won't mean much in the grand scheme of sports if history is any indication.

      Patrick Sharp, left, Patrick Kane and the rest of the Blackhawks have been a red-hot story, but it probably won't mean much in the grand scheme of sports if history is any indication.
    Associated Press


The nature of sports is to imagine giant leaps.

A football player having a good September is going to the Hall of Fame. LeBron James has a few great years and is better than Michael Jordan's entire career. The Cubs manufacture a run in the first inning of their season opener and the drought is over.

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Now the Blackhawks have stolen attention from Derrick Rose's knee and the NHL is going to skate into the hearts of Americans.

Sorry, but that isn't going to happen.

It should, but it won't.

One of the big stories this week was that the Hawks are a big story. National news outlets swooped into town to get a look at the team setting records at a record clip.

The implication is that the Hawks are so adorable that hockey generally and the NHL specifically will knock the Kardashians off their social-media throne.

Yeah, and a single cow in the French Quarter is going to turn New Orleans into America's Dairyland.

The Hawks are a great story but not a grand movement. For decades, better NHL opportunities have come and gone and come and gone and come and gone and come and gone.

In that respect hockey is a bit like soccer, another sport whose day its supporters insist is coming, but that day never arrives in the United States.

Trust me, this is coming from somebody who has enjoyed hockey since Bobby Hull was a rookie and used to be frustrated by the sport's status. I have seen the NHL have myriad moments that inspired the notion that hockey is on the verge of a breakthrough.

There was Wayne Gretzky arriving in the late 1970s. The Miracle on Ice at the 1980 Winter Olympics. Gretzky going from last-outpost Edmonton to major-market Los Angeles in 1988. Mega-major market New York winning the Stanley Cup in 1994. And, finally, maybe even a certain Chicago team winning the Cup in 2010.

Each time, the NHL settled back into its place behind the NFL, MLB and NBA, and I'm resigned to this being the way it'll be.

The latest reminder came Wednesday afternoon -- right in the middle of Hawks hysteria -- when Sports Illustrated announced its 50 most powerful persons in sports.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman landed at No. 27.

Not bad, really. Heck, it's ahead of No. 44 Barack Obama, president of the United States, and No. 50 Michael Jordan, king of the world.

But NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is No. 1, of course. The NBA's David Stern is No. 2. Baseball's Bud Selig is No. 5.

More sobering is that FIFA president Sepp Blatter, Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive, Formula One president Bernie Ecclestone, PGA commissioner Tim Finchem and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany all rank ahead of Bettman. So is somebody identified only as Hedge Fund Dude at No. 10.

Bettman's critics will attribute the low number to his job performance. But the power rankings aren't as much about the man in the position as about the position itself.

Goodell would be more like No. 27 than No. 1 if he were heading up the NHL. Hockey just doesn't carry much weight in this country, and that isn't going to change much just because the Blackhawks' are on a record binge.

But that's OK. The NHL is what it is, and what it is is appreciated in traditional sports meccas like Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia and New York.

Being able to enjoy these Blackhawks is better than being powerful any day anyway.

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