An end to nightmares and a hockey dream come true
PHILADELPHIA - A half-century is time enough to ponder the nightmares of Finals lost, of Cups stolen, of hopes shattered.
There was decade after decade of abject misery under an owner that cared about winning only slightly more than he would a stray mutt, and treated his fans with equal compassion, leaving them out in the cold to shiver and starve.
But without extraordinary pain, joy can't swing the pendulum as dramatically in the opposite direction, and the celebration would not be as intense.
And if that's the criteria for a parade the likes of which a hockey town has never seen, start your engines, Chicago.
The Blackhawks are the 2010 Stanley Cup champions.
So long has been the suffering of drought and thirst, but that is no more, not as of 10:06 p.m. Wednesday night, when Patrick Kane beat Mike Leighton 4:06 into overtime.
As the players rushed off the bench and hugged each other, some cried and others screamed, and after shaking hands with a ferocious Flyers team, the Hawks danced about the Wachovia Center ice with the Stanley Cup.
They drank in their dressing room from the silver chalice that promises eternal hockey life, a fan base quenched forever a parched history of failure and defeat.
Stay thirsty my friends, at least for a summer, and wait for the Cup to come to a party near you.
This is a victory for the players, but this is really a celebration for you, the fans, who have ached so long and so deep, who stayed engaged even when the owner dared you to stay away.
You remembered the roar when they tried to steal your memories, and you never quit on the franchise, even when it quit on you, when ownership ignorance was eclipsed only by negligence and malfeasance.
This party is for Rocky Wirtz, bless him, who gave the team back to the fans, and made it OK to come home, to embrace the hockey club again.
It is for the executives of yesterday and today, like Jack Davison, Mike Dumas, Dale Tallon, Al MacIsaac, Marshall Johnston and Bill Lesuk, all of whom played a part in discovering the talent that brought home the Cup.
The coaches in the NHL and AHL, like Joel Quenneville, Trent Yawney and Mike Haviland, all of whom developed these players, and even Bob Pulford, who in his day was brilliant behind the bench.
And for the best ever, Billy Reay, who never sipped from the Cup with his hat on.
It is for the great Pat Foley and the late, great Lloyd Pettit, their excitement and passion a gift for all generations.
It is for all the great players who never knew victory here, like Chris Chelios, Jeremy Roenick, Ed Belfour, Tony Amonte and Dirk Graham, and for the great teams of the '80s, who could stake a claim as the second-best team in hockey for many of those years.
If they only had a goaltender, what might have been for the likes of Doug Wilson and Bob Murray, Dave Manson and Keith Brown, Troy Murray, Curt Fraser and Ed Olczyk, and Tom Lysiak, Bill Gardner and Darryl Sutter.
It's for one of the great lines in NHL history, Al Secord, Steve Larmer and Denis Savard, the most exciting player ever to don the sweater.
It's for the great players of the late '60s and early '70s, who came along too late for 1961 and only remember the pain of 1971, like Pit Martin, Jim Pappin and Dennis Hull, Whitey Stapleton and Bill White, Doug Jarrett and Doug Mohns, Cliff Koroll and Phil Russell.
It is for Tony Esposito, perhaps the most underrated Hall of Fame goaltender in history, a man who never got the credit he deserved for making the playoffs every one of his 15 seasons in Chicago, about half of those years in his prime with some horrible teams when he did it entirely on his own.
But more than anyone, this is for Keith Magnuson, who wore his heart on his sleeve and the crest on his chest until the day he died, and no one would have taken greater pleasure in seeing his sweater stand last.
Maggie was the one who never left, not for any reason or anyone. No matter how much he may have hated what was done to his beloved team, and the men who did it, he never walked away.
He never wavered.
The man who bled for his team more than any player in Hawks history would have given anything to see this day, to see his boys dancing with Lord Stanley's sacred bowl.
He would have felt like he was part of it, because, well, he would have been.
Maggie wasn't just a legend of the fall and winter, and he didn't show up when paid to wave to the cameras.
He was always around the team, even in the worst of times, and he came to symbolize what love for the uniform meant.
Lord, how he would have loved this moment.
It is not the same without him, but of this we are certain:
You can rest in peace now, Maggie, for the ghost of Henri Richard is never more.
Your Chicago Blackhawks are Stanley Cup champions.