Hockey's Hottest Teams Hit The Ice In Stanley Cup Final | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Hockey's Hottest Teams Hit The Ice In Stanley Cup Final

Play associated audio

The National Hockey League's Stanley Cup championship gets underway in Chicago Wednesday night, with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins facing off in the first game of the best-of-seven series. It's a classic matchup between two of the NHL's original six teams.

Both teams are recent champs, which is helping passionate hockey fans and players put the bitter labor dispute that almost iced the season behind them.

Chicago is crazy about the Blackhawks right now. One of the dinosaurs outside the Field Museum of Natural History is wearing a huge Hawks jersey; the famous lion statues outside the Art Institute of Chicago are wearing giant Blackhawks helmets; and there are Blackhawks flags, banners, signs, shirts, hats and jerseys all over town.

"The city's pretty pumped about 'em," says Rick Smith, 50, while nursing a beer at the Windy City Inn. Smith says he and other hard-core hockey fans were the quiet minority for years while the Blackhawks trailed far behind Chicago's four other major pro sports teams in popularity. But the Hawks have improved greatly on the ice in recent years, becoming one of the league's elite teams — while Chicago's other teams are mired in mediocrity.

A Faceoff Between Two Of The NHL's Oldest Teams

After winning a Stanley Cup championship in 2010, Smith says, the team once known as "cold steel on ice" has caught fire. "Everyone knows about the Blackhawks. If you look around the city, that's all people wear are Blackhawk jerseys now ... and it doesn't matter what color — white, red, green, black — so it's pretty good."

The Blackhawks have even been converting those sports fans in the city who never cared for hockey before. Matt Hamilton, 32, says he never paid any attention to hockey or the Blackhawks while growing up in Chicago.

"But it's been awesome the last couple of years and I love 'em," he says. "It's my favorite sport all of a sudden."

But Hamilton and the thousands of Chicagoans on the Blackhawks' bandwagon may have met their match in Beantown. Hundreds of Boston Bruins fans showed up at the team's arena yesterday, screaming and waving signs to send the Bruins off to the first two Stanley Cup final games.

The Bruins, who won the Stanley Cup in 2011, are known as a big and physically punishing team that skates well. Whether it's enough to keep up with Chicago's speed and skill is part of what makes this a dream championship matchup.

And these aren't just two of the league's best teams; they're also two of the oldest — both are among the National Hockey League's original six teams. Yet in nearly 90 seasons of hockey they've never before faced off against each other for the championship.

Leaving The Lockout Hangover Behind

NBC hockey analyst Eddie Olczyk says that makes this Stanley Cup final extra special. "Because when you talk about two great towns and two great sports cities, and two teams that have been around for a long time in the NHL, you need that, especially coming [from] where we were."

In fact, this year's hockey season almost didn't happen. A bitter labor dispute, in which the league locked out players for the second time in seven years, delayed the start of the season until mid-January and led to a shortened schedule.

Back at the Windy City Inn, Matt Hamilton is one of many fans who started out the season boycotting games. But he says the Blackhawks record streak of 24 games unbeaten in regulation this year reeled him back in. And nothing, he says, could be better than facing Boston in the finals.

"I'll tell you what, if you can't get excited about this series, just, you're not going to watch hockey anymore," Hamilton says. "This is gonna get you back in. There's no more lockout hangover. Not after this."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Ever Cheat At Monopoly? So Did Its Creator: He Stole The Idea From A Woman

The game Charles Darrow sold in the 1930s bore a striking resemblance to a game Lizzie Magie patented in 1904. In The Monopolists, Mary Pilon tells Monopoly's origin story.
NPR

Sandwich Monday: The Funnel Cake Corn Dog

For this week's Sandwich Monday, we try a new twist on a classic. It's a corn dog that uses funnel cake in place of corn meal to encase a hot dog.
NPR

Controverisal Netanyahu Speech Is Latest Glitch In U.S.-Israel Relations

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks to a joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday. The speech highlights differences between the U.S. and Israel on how to stop Iran from going nuclear.
NPR

Free Wi-Fi On Buses Offers A Link To Future Of 'Smart Cities'

A new service in a Portuguese city not only provides commuters with free Internet connections but it also helps collect data that makes the municipality run more efficiently.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.