Hawks will savour the moment

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:57 PM ET

EDMONTON - CHICAGO — You wonder if the Toronto Maple Leafs built extra-large trophy cases in the spring of 1967, making space for all the other Stanley Cups that were sure to follow their Centennial triumph.

And all that sits there today is 43 years worth of dust.

Did the Calgary Flames have any idea they’d be one and done in 1989, or that their Cup final appearance in 2004 might be their last for another 15 years?

Probably not.

So if the Chicago Blackhawks are smart, they’ll cherish and make good on their first trip to the final since 1992, because even though they’re a young team with incredible firepower, they might never get this close again.

“We talk about it all the time,” said veteran John Madden, after Chicago swept San Jose in the Western Conference final, moving to within four wins of its first title in 49 years.

“You never know when you’re going to be back here. You never know. You have to take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way.”

Ask Ottawa how small the window can be. A team can start out like Chicago is, wondering how many Cups they’ll win before the dynasty is over, and end up like the Senators, wondering what the heck went wrong.

Teams break up because of salary issues, players get traded, stars get hurt, chances get blown and before you know it somebody knocks you off the pedestal.

“That’s the nature of the game, it’s difficult to keep a full team together year after year, we know that,” said Patrick Sharp. “Nothing is taken for granted here.”

No matter how many people tell this young, immensely talented, incredibly deep Chicago team they’re going to rule the league for the next 10 years, they refuse to listen.

Yes, Jonathan Toews is 21, Patrick Kane is 22 and Dustin Byfuglien 25, but the ‘67 Leafs were young once, too.

“We have to look at it like this is maybe a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Kane. “Especially in the salary cap era. It’s pretty difficult when you put a team together (to keep it together). You never really know in this day and age how things are going to work out.”

Indeed. Antti Niemi is a restricted free agent this summer and Brent Seabrook and Dustin Byfuglien are up next summer. So they might want to get while the gettin’s good.

“Last year, getting to where they were, to the conference final against a good team like Detroit, was good enough, maybe,” said Madden, eight years removed from his last trip to the final. “Not now. I know we’re not going to be satisfied this year unless we win it all.”

Kane already knows what it feels like to let the big one slip away and he’s not going to let it happen again.

“It’s just like the Olympics and the gold medal game. Obviously I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity. But I think this one would be a lot more fun to win because you’re with the team the whole year, 82 games.”

That’s another thing that makes this drive so important - Chicago is one of the closest teams in the NHL, kind of like the young Edmonton Oilers were in the ’80s.

“It feels likes we’ve been together a long time,” said Sharp. “It’s fun to be a part of this team on and off the ice.”

They want to win it for each other as much as they want to win it for themselves, because they know some of their teammates aren’t coming back.

“It’s been talked about,” said Sharp. “You look at guys that have been in the league for a long time, who have played for this opportunity (and never got it). We realize that it’s right there for us. So we don’t want to start thinking about where players will be next year. We got to take advantage of what we have.”

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca


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