By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Imagine the scene, if you can.READ MORE: Ald. Carrie Austin Thanks City Council, Mayor For Support After Her Collapse At December Meeting
The Stanley Cup is in Chicago, awaiting its hoist to the sky. It will spend a summer circling the globe, attending a parade, parties — oh, so many — weddings and just about any other celebration you can think of. It’s a prize meant to be shared with a city and its fans.
For the third time in six years, the Blackhawks are in position to boast such a special claim.
The wait for puck drop on Monday night at the United Center is filled with anticipation. A season of trials and postseason of tribulations has brought Chicago one win over the Tampa Bay Lightning away from a summer with Stanley.
“As you’re going through it, it’s the time of your life,” Blackhawks center Brad Richards said. “There’s no better journey.”
With a third Stanley Cup, Jonathan Toews would cement his place among the all-time greats, even at the age of 27. Patrick Kane would do so, too, at 26. The Blackhawks’ core of Toews, Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook would sit in a special place of hockey fame.
This run in Chicago would join some of the NHL’s best, and there’s plenty of reason to believe it can continue for years. A city once desperate for hockey success has become spoiled in it, all thanks to a group of great players.
“Our top guys rise to the challenge,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
Count this as typical Coach Q, because he’s constantly spreading the praise rather than claiming it.READ MORE: Charges To Be Filed Soon In Connection With Shooting Death Of 8-Year-Old Melissa Ortega
Before joining the Blackhawks in 2008, Quenneville was viewed as a successful regular-season coach who couldn’t get teams in St. Louis and Colorado over the top. His 42-14 record in Games 4-7 of playoff series with Chicago is a testament to coaching abilities. Now, he has two rings and is so close to a third.
“As individuals, he also finds ways to enable you to bring out your best,” Toews said of Quenneville. “Yeah, I mean, it’s just been a great combination, the players that we have, the leadership group we have in the room, combining that with the type of coaching staff we’ve had over the years.”
When the salary cap was implemented in 2005, it was done with the purpose of establishing parity in the NHL. It was supposed to be a daunting task to sustain Stanley Cup success. Look no further than the 2011 Blackhawks, who lost many important pieces from their 2010 championship team.
But the Blackhawks’ core stayed intact, with those names like Toews and Kane becoming Chicago staples. They’re also engraved twice on the Cup.
“We got a great team,” Seabrook said. “We got a lot of great players on our team. I think the management and the coaches have done a good job of identifying the players that they’ve put in the lineup.”
Each of these players is stuck in a holding pattern until Monday evening. Many will do activities to take their mind off it. Lightning coach Jon Cooper even went to Wrigley Field on Sunday night, thanks to a ticket hookup from Joe Maddon, his old Tampa friend.
Yet, the Stanley Cup looms on the mind of every hockey player. It’s the dream of every kid to strap on the skates at a local rink. The Blackhawks are one win away from making their dream a reality once again.
That scene of glory is worth the agonizing wait.MORE NEWS: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer To Retire
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.