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updated: 6/29/2013 7:49 PM

Blackhawks go down in history for best reasons

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  • Coach Joel Quenneville takes a turn with the Stanley Cup rally at Hutchinson Field rally in Chicago Friday. Although he has been involved in more than 2,000 games in his NHL career, Quenneville was in awe of the effort by injured players in the Stanley Cup Final.

       Coach Joel Quenneville takes a turn with the Stanley Cup rally at Hutchinson Field rally in Chicago Friday. Although he has been involved in more than 2,000 games in his NHL career, Quenneville was in awe of the effort by injured players in the Stanley Cup Final.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 

No team wins the Stanley Cup without first suffering the tribulations of a marathon playoff run, without overcoming two months' worth of trials.

And no team has ever done it with more drama and heart than the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks.

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Let that be the reason -- their admirable audacity -- that we remember these Stanley Cup champions.

Memories fade over time, but history will record the triumphs of a team that stared constant calamity in the face and refused to submit.

It is without question the overwhelming characteristic of this title run, the courage and integrity of a team that would not -- and simply could not -- accept defeat.

By now you know all that they survived to reach the top, the steps to the summit littered with hidden crevices and gaping chasms, each one threatening to send them to their doom.

Every time, the Hawks had an answer. Every time, they had a solution. Every time, they had each other.

A beaming symbol of the depth Stan Bowman created out of the salary cap nightmare he inherited was how the fourth line scored the winning goal to capture the Stanley Cup, backed by the defensive pairing of Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya.

Even after Dave Bolland scored the go-ahead goal, the fourth line remained on the ice to start the final minute, and until a few seconds remained -- when Marian Hossa replaced Michael Frolik, and Brent Seabrook replaced Hjalmarsson -- charged with protecting the lead along with Jonathan Toews were Hjalmarsson, Oduya, Frolik, Michal Handzus and Corey Crawford, all players that few believed in beyond Bowman and his staff.

"There was definitely a lot of depth and that was probably our greatest asset," said Patrick Sharp. "I think back to 2010, you had some guys who were probably unknown names that made names for themselves throughout that year and in the playoffs, and you saw it again this year."

Depth of talent and irrepressible spirit throughout the roster, two factors that carried the Hawks to their best response at their worst deficit.

"The resiliency of this group is really something special," Bowman said. "If you didn't see what they've been able to do, you probably wouldn't believe it. There are so many guys on this team who won't give up. They just won't give up no matter what."

Of course, it can't be done without superstars, but in the salary cap era, the GM that wins is the GM who can draft, develop and discover the spare parts that allow a team to win when the top lines are being smothered.

"The depth of our four lines made it such a great season and a fun team to coach," said Joel Quenneville, who right to the very end managed to push the correct buttons. "The back end had depth, too, and Corey was just brilliant for us in goal."

As the Hawks celebrated on the ice late Monday night, every jersey had at least a smattering of blood on it, courtesy of Andrew Shaw's face. Every time he hugged a player, each got a reminder of Shaw's unyielding energy -- and yet another teammate who refused to quit.

About 19 hours after the horn sounded on the Stanley Cup Final -- and gloves, sticks and helmets were strewed about TD Garden -- I visited with colleagues Dan Bernstein and Laurence Holmes Tuesday afternoon on the Score.

They asked what it was like to be on the ice with the Hawks as they celebrated, and what was most memorable, but I didn't have a great answer. It was simply too soon.

Now, with a little distance, I know the answer.

It wasn't the beaming Crawford, who found validation in victory. It wasn't Scotty Bowman, the proud father. It wasn't Rocky Wirtz, who had to stay away from his beloved team until it was his team to run. And it wasn't seeing veterans in tears, players such as Handzus, Jamal Mayers, Michal Rozsival and Ray Emery, guys who had waited their entire lives for that moment.

All amazing pictures of the mind that will remain secure for an eternity, but not the one that sticks out.

It was Quenneville recalling the effort of his injured players, choking up and unable to speak while trying to explain that he didn't think Bryan Bickell would even play in the series, that Shaw and Handzus probably shouldn't have dressed, that Oduya, Toews, Hossa, Sharp and Bolland had kept it together with chewing gum and spit.

He mentioned Patrice Bergeron, who, as it turns out, played Game 6 with broken ribs, torn cartilage, a separated shoulder and -- just for yucks -- a small hole in his lung.

This is a man in Quenneville, keep in mind, who played 800 games in this league and has coached another 1,200. More than 2,000 games and Quenneville had trouble verbalizing what he had seen.

"I'm just in awe of what these guys have done," Quenneville said, sniffing back the tears. "I think you have to commend the effort of both teams. The series was something very special. Just something very special. Special men, special players."

That is the indelible moment, a coach stunned by sudden victory, still shocked by what modern, millionaire players will do for each other, for their uniform and for a chance to win the Stanley Cup.

And in the end, for reasons even Quenneville knew were too esoteric or arbitrary to explain, it went the Hawks' way.

"It was one of those seasons," Quenneville said. "It was a fairy tale ending and an amazing season."

An amazing season, a series for the ages and a champion that will live in the hearts of Chicagoans forever.

As long as there are sports and as long as there is ice, these Blackhawks will be remembered.

They have earned at least that much.

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Listen 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.

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