Debating who's the greatest Blackhawk of all time
Who is the greatest Blackhawk of all time?
It's a question that has been bandied about in the wake of Patrick Kane's trade to the Rangers.
Some pundits said Kane absolutely ranks above Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and whomever else you want to throw into the conversation.
And, look, you can absolutely make that case. But is it fait accompli?
I'm not so sure. So let's build a case for each and see what conclusion you come to.
The Golden Jet left an indelible mark for any fan who saw him screaming up and down the ice at the old Chicago Stadium from 1957-72. It's something we rarely experience today.
"Every time I grabbed the biscuit and went the length of the ice, I could hear them getting out of their seats," Hull said last year. "And the faster I went, the louder it got until it was at a crescendo if I happened to blast one into the net.
"That's all I needed -- just their applause for what I was paid to do."
Hull -- a two-time MVP and 12-time all-star -- is the franchise's all-time leading goal scorer with 604 tallies in 1,036 games. He also added 62 more in 116 postseason games.
And for those going primarily by statistics, one thing to consider is Hull could be the NHL's all-time leader in goals. That honor belongs to Wayne Gretzky with 894, but don't forget Hull scored 303 times in the World Hockey Association.
If the Hawks matched the $1 million contract offered by the Winnipeg Jets in 1972, then at a minimum Hull finishes with a goal total in the mid 800s.
Hull's candidacy falls apart for many because of his off-ice transgressions -- and there's no doubt those should be taken into consideration. Big time.
Many, however, give Hull immense credit for engaging with fans off the ice. He would dutifully sign autographs and have meaningful conversations with both adults and kids. It's a big reason he's still so revered to this day.
'Stosh' was one of the most consistent players of all-time, scoring 18 or more goals 18 times and racking up 25 or more 13 times. He also led the league in scoring four times.
When his career ended in 1979, Mikita had racked up 541 goals, 926 assists and 1,467 points in 1,396 games. The latter three numbers are all franchise records, while his goal total ranks second.
The stats are important, but those who would vote for Mikita are happy to bring up four other facts:
• As a two-way centerman, Mikita was the best defensive player of the three. Now, was he elite? Most would say no. But the 200-foot game is definitely a reason to choose Mikita over Hull or Kane.
• Mikita revolutionized the game more than any other player after he broke a stick in practice. Not wanting to fetch a new one, he took a whack at a puck with the broken twig in frustration.
"I saw a puck lying there and I slammed it against the boards in anger, and there was a different sound that I heard," Mikita told reporter Sarah Spain in 2011. "I shot a couple more with a wrist shot and it turned out to be the same thing, and finally the stick cracked."
Pucks suddenly were flying in ways no one had seen before. Mikita figured out that if he heated up the stick and bent it just the right way, it would stay that way.
The curved stick was born -- and hockey was forever changed.
• Mikita was a nasty SOB during his first six seasons. But after oldest daughter Meg called him out for being in the penalty box instead of "with his friends," Mikita basically stopped fighting. It was a remarkable transformation and led to him becoming the only player in NHL history to win the Hart (MVP), Art Ross (leading scorer) and Lady Byng (sportsmanship) trophies all in one season. He then repeated the feat in 1967-68.
• Reverberations of Mikita's charitable work in the Chicagoland continue to be felt. He created the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association, which still exists 50 years later. He was also a staunch supporter of the Special Olympics. Mikita also engaged fans in myriad situations -- at the rink, at a golf course and at restaurants.
"Showtime" will go down as one of -- if not the -- best American-born players of all-time.
Kane played a huge role in the Hawks' Stanley Cup runs in 2010, '13 and '15. He owns perhaps the 2 biggest goals in franchise history in the short-handed tally against Nashville in Game 5 in 2010 and the Cup-clinching OT winner in Game 6 at Philadelphia.
Gifted with remarkably soft hands and uncanny hockey sense, Kane dazzled fans from the moment he stepped onto the ice in 2007. The Buffalo native racked up 446 goals and 779 assists for a whopping 1,225 points. Let's not forget those numbers would be higher had he not lost 72 games due to a lockout in 2013 and two pandemic shortened seasons (2019-21).
Kane has scored 20 or more goals in every campaign that went 82 games, and he had 25 or more in 11 of 13. He was also a tremendous passer as evidenced by eight 50-plus assist seasons.
Of course, hockey isn't all about offense and Kane is a subpar defender. He'd also often cheat for offense, especially when the opponent's net was empty in a 1-goal game.
And for those holding Hull's off-ice actions against him, Kane had a few notable ones as well.
Still, Kane spearheaded a hockey revolution in Chicago few thought was possible. The United Center went from a ghost town to a rocking arena in no time flat. It reminds many of us of how Michael Jordan resurrected the Bulls.
How many other athletes can say they've had that kind of impact on a franchise and a city?
While some want to include Tony Esposito, Denis Savard, Jonathan Toews and a few others into this discussion, most agree it should revolve around Hull, Kane and Mikita.
But how do you choose? Especially when dealing with players from two different eras?
Today's goalies are gigantic. Equipment, nutrition and workout regimens are far superior. Wooden sticks have been gone for four decades.
Now, is competition tougher or easier? After all, there were around 100 players in the entire NHL when Mikita and Hull began. Only the best of the best were rostered.
Today, there are nearly 800, with thousands more in the minor leagues or overseas. Yet, many would argue that the overall skill is higher now because of how global the game has become.
When you strip it all down, naming the greatest Blackhawk ever likely comes down to this:
If you are all about offense and goal scoring, Hull's your guy.
If you're about tremendous consistency, innovation, transformation and off-ice endeavors, Stan's your man.
If you're about Stanley Cup titles, play-making ability and clutch goals, there's no doubt you'll raise the curtain for Showtime.
Then, for some of you, there's no right or wrong answer.
And maybe that's the way it should be.