Addicted to Winning: Will the Blackhawks Ever Stop?

*This was originally published on Black Press’s B.C. network

Yesterday, Brad Richards called it an addiction to winning.

In Chicago, that feeling’s just too good to give up on. Maybe you know it’s someone else’s turn, that the Lightning or the Ducks have worked just as hard for what you’re now accustomed to: the Stanley Cup, every two years. And it was a funny, but perfect, quote to come from Richards. Because he’s only been there for a year. And already, that culture’s rubbed off on him – he’s a Blackhawk now, with his name chiseled next to everyone else’s on these great Hawks teams, for the third time since 2010.

It must be an addiction. That’s the only way to describe the reaction from Patrick Kane above, after one of America’s most decorated all-time players (already, at just age 26) scored the insurance goal to bury the Lightning for good. Tongue out, finger-wagging, ready to celebrate like this Cup was his first. After so many big goals, so many windmill arm pumps, so many parades with Toews and Co., the next one is just as big for Patrick Kane. Once it’s done, you’re onto tomorrow. And if you don’t win a third, what was the point in winning two?

(Barry Sanders used to say he didn’t celebrate his touchdowns because, quote, act like you’ve been there before. But in the opposite way, doesn’t Kane do the same thing?)

Great players – great artists, great everything – have that extra gear, an unlimited acceleration. Toews, Kane, Keith. They have it, and all the Hawks have it when they put that sweater on, it seems. The other members of Chicago’s ‘Three Cup Club’ have it: Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, and Brent Seabrook. Corey Crawford has it, Nick Hjalmarsson has it, and Brad Richards already has it. Joel Quenneville – who’s also won three Cups, from behind the bench – of course has it, and is perhaps forgotten in all this.

They all have this inexhaustible push, this ability to keep going and going and going despite winning or satisfaction. Most people work with the belief that someday soon, it’s going to be their turn. The Blackhawks know there’s no such thing. All champions do. They don’t have to give up the belt, not if they’re still in the ring – who cares about Vancouver or Nashville or St. Louis or Anaheim or Tampa or New York or Philadelphia, or if any of those cities think they should have won a Cup by now? Who cares if Chicago’s won enough? What does enough mean anyway?

Now perhaps I sound like the voiceover from a Nike commercial, and I apologize. But the Blackhawks are terrifying to every opponent, none of whom can give them even a whiff of a light at the end of the tunnel. The Blackhawks don’t believe in a food chain: it’s just them and everyone else, and they’re coming for your pride.

The Blackhawks are what I thought of last week, when I watched the terrific Whiplash for the first time. To everyone in that film besides JK Simmons’ teacher and Miles Teller’s drummer, the methods and torture underwent in the name of perfection seemed cruel and excessive and just plain wrong. What good is excellence if you lose your sanity, right?

But to the two mains, they knew why they killed themselves. That’s what ambition is, isn’t it?

“I was there to push people beyond what’s expected of them. I believe that is an absolute necessity,” Simmons tells Teller, in one of their characters’ only poetic, equal conversations. “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.”

Some may think that stuff sounds harsh or too Lombardi-ish, that maybe there’s more to a career than winning and losing. They can think that if they want. But they’re not going to have a parade next week, either.

Stanley Cup Final – Game 6 Highlights

Somehow overlooked or under-respected in this series was the teams’ heroic goaltending, as both Ben Bishop (Tampa) and Corey Crawford (Chicago) held all six games to razor-thin margins. Five of the series’ six games were decided by one goal, and four of them saw three goals or less.

Below, Bishop makes rapid-fire saves on Jonathan Toews; at the other end, Crawford stones sniper Steven Stamkos on a breakaway.

Chicago’s anthem is an NHL landmark now. It was probably always something special, but winning has put it in the spotlight. (Was there any way the Blackhawks would lose this game at home, after this?)

Eventual playoff MVP Duncan Keith opens the scoring with what would become the game-winner, putting his own rebound past Bishop.

Patrick Kane seals the the Cup for Chicago, one-timing home a pretty feed from the NHL’s ‘free agent of the year’, Brad Richards. (Tampa goalie Ben Bishop revealed he was playing with a torn groin in the Final, making it near impossible to cross his crease fast enough to stop Kane.)

Kane has scored more big goals than any other Chicago player since 2010 – he had the Stanley Cup winner in overtime for the Blackhawks that season, scored the Western Conference-winning goal in overtime in 2012 against L.A., and finally had this 2-0 goal to bury the Lightning last night.

The clock hits zero and the Blackhawks flood the ice, while the Lightning look on.

Jonathan Toews raises the Cup for the third time as Chicago captain. At 27 years old, with three Cups and two Olympic gold medals, Toews is already one of Canada’s most decorated all-time players.

Penticton’s Duncan Keith is handed the Conn Smythe Trophy as the league’s playoff MVP, a unanimous decision.