'A new lease on life'

Bobby Hull is happy to see the Blackhawks one game away from winning the Stanley Cup. (QMI...

Bobby Hull is happy to see the Blackhawks one game away from winning the Stanley Cup. (QMI Agency/Brian Donogh)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:43 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- There's only one thing that can fix this drought of 49 years.

A long, cold drink from the top of a cup named Stanley.

The Chicago Blackhawks are poised to end the longest current streak without a Stanley Cup in the NHL with a victory Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.

A win in Game 6 of the final at the Wachovia Center will be the biggest story to blow into the Windy City (sorry, Steve Bartman) since the White Sox swept the Houston Astros in 2005 on the South Side, the Bulls' double three-peats in the '90s and before that, when the Chicago Bears were doing the Super Bowl Shuffle in 1985.

It would be a remarkable turn for the 'Hawks, an Original Six team with just three Stanley Cups, the last in 1961, a team just three years removed from their players handing out business cards with a web address on the back that would get a fan two free tickets.

That was in the dark times when the 'Hawks were under the thumb of patriarch "Dollar" Bill Wirtz and at the bottom of the standings in both performance and attendance.

No games were on television.

With the passing of Wirtz, son Rocky took over and the blackout on the 'Hawks was lifted both figuratively and literally.

You can't get a ticket to a 'Hawks game now with Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final marking the franchise's 100th-straight sellout at United Center.

The second game of the Stanley Cup final got the best TV rating since they started keeping records in 1975 with the Chicago market leading the way with a 25.1 rating and a 39 share.

With a cupboard full of top prospects drafted by former GM Dale Tallon, Wirtz brought in the Bowmans, Scott and Stan, and Joel Quenneville took over as head coach four games into this season.

With the future looking brighter, he reached back to the past, forging a new relationship with former greats like Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Tony Esposito and Denis Savard.

"Rocky Wirtz is doing everything that should have been done in the previous 30 some years," said Hull. "He got rid of the deadwood. He hired John McDonough (as president), the best sports marketing person you could find anywhere. He put the home games on TV which fans have wanted for years and years. He hired Scotty Bowman and the icing on the cake was when he delved into the past, and he knew that if you weren't proud of the past, you don't have much of a future.

"When people saw what (Wirtz) had done and had recognized we old guys from the past, the fans came out of the woodwork in droves," said Hull. "It is fabulous to be able to be a part of a great family. It is nothing like it used to be. Everybody used to be mad at each other here. Now everyone is happy and enjoying one another's company. To go in there and see the way the Blackhawks hockey team plays and to see the respect of the fans, it's a new lease on life for me."

And for the franchise.

The 'Hawks have been close before, losing in a seven-game series to the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup final in 1971 and in six games in '73. In their last visit to the final, in 1992, they were swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Now they've got two chances to end almost a half-century of empty springs.

A city hopes it takes only one.


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