BOSTON — Sixteen victories.
Taken as a whole, it sounds so simple for such a complicated prize.
But within each one of those solitary wins are so many victories and defeats, games separated by periods, power plays, puck battles, faceoffs and goal posts.
It doesn’t seem like so very many, until you stack every shift on top of another, until you’ve taken those 16 steps to the top of Mt. Stanley.
Your legs burn with every move higher, your body breaks, your soul cries.
It is the greatest crown in sports because it’s the hardest trophy to win. It is the greatest trophy in sports because it’s the hardest to lose.
And only after much blood, considerable sweat and maybe even some tears does a group get to dance with hockey’s most prized possession, only after Lord Stanley has giveth, and Lord Stanley has taketh away.
And in that moment each side can finally grasp a breath without anger, gasp without pain, shake hands, sometimes hug, and understand that they have been party to something that history will record, and a fan base will never forget.
To the winners go the spoils of sports’ most hallowed medal, the coveted Stanley Cup, the greatest reward any sport has ever known.
And for the second time in four years the Blackhawks have their Sweet 16.
They did it in true Hawks fashion, scoring twice in 17 seconds to overcome yet another deficit in the final 2 minutes to defeat Boston 3-2 to win the Stanley Cup in six games.
This time it was Bryan Bickell saving the day with a goal on an incredible pass from Jonathan Toews to tie it, and then Dave Bolland putting in a rebound of a Johnny Oduya shot off the post to win it.
It was only fitting that the fourth line won the game, displaying the depth that has carried the Hawks all season.
And only a minute later they were celebrating the ending of one of the greatest Final series ever played.
After the handshakes, captain Toews lifted the Cup above his head and handed it to Michal Handzus, who gave it to Jamal Mayers and then to Michal Rozsival.
Sweet was their dance around the ice with the coveted bowl Monday night, but the likes of Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Bolland, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson have done the waltz before.
Taking the silver chalice for the first time were so many who only dreamed of such a night as children, and envisioned it as an adult.
This night was for them.
No one more so than Corey Crawford, who proved his doubters wrong, and his smile as he held the Cup aloft spoke more words than anything the quiet and respectful Crawford ever needed to say in defense of his play.
Yeah, this Cup was all about those who had to prove they deserved it, from Oduya to Nick Leddy, Brandon Saad to Bickell, Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger, Viktor Stalberg and Brandon Bollig, Andrew Shaw to Sheldon Brookbank.
It was for the guys who have narrowly missed before, like Ray Emery, who lost a Final in Ottawa, Handzus, who left L.A. one year before the Kings won, and Rozsival, who lost in the conference finals a year ago with Phoenix — all veterans who will finally get their name engraved in silver.
It is certainly for, and in large part due to, GM Stan Bowman, who must never apologize again for having his name on the trophy.
Bowman, under difficult circumstances, has rebuilt a team once destroyed by the salary cap, and now put together again with wit and wisdom, spit and polish, grit and knowledge.
Son of a legend, Bowman can stand on his own name now, proud of a winner born of his own vision, constructed from his own ambition.
He formed a team that could withstand any attack under the toughest of circumstances, the worst of adversity.
Each time they seemed defeated, they found a way to recover. They showed guts in the Detroit series, toughness in the Los Angeles series and courage in this Boston series that maybe the players themselves didn’t even know they possessed.
Under the guidance of Joel Quenneville, who found buttons when there didn’t seem any left to push, the 2013 Hawks overcame and adapted, adjusted and anticipated, stood and delivered.
They showed the heart of a champion and are the heartbeat of a city.
The Blackhawks are the Stanley Cup champions.
And Chicago, for all the right reasons, for all that is right about sports, will never forget them.
źListen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score’s “Hit and Run” show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.