'Hawks resemble '80s Oilers

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- You almost expect to hear them singing "Here we go, Blackhawks, here we go!" on the bench.

Nobody is expecting them to write the same story or have anywhere near the success as another collection of kids back in the early '80s, a team which sang "Here we go, Oilers, here we go!" on the bench in Long Island in a Stanley Cup playoff series against the New York Islanders.

It's just that from what we watched all season and in the playoffs headed into Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal here last night, there is so much about these young Chicago Blackhawks that bring the same-age '80s Edmonton glory gang to mind.

DIFFERENT ERA

They've been fun to watch. And in an era when you hardly ever see a professional athlete having fun, partially perhaps because it's not considered cool to look like you're having fun while perspiring in public these days, it sure looks like these kids are doing just that.

"They're fun to work with, they're fun to coach and they're fun to be around," said Joel Quenneville, the guy who fell into this job four games into the season when Dennis Savard was fired.

"When you think of that Edmonton team, the fun they had transcended to their expressions. These days every game is so meaningful from Game 1 to Game 82, it's more of a business," he said volunteering the Oiler reference.

Broadcaster and former Hawk Eddie Olcyck, says there really is something about this group.

"The template is in place," he said of turning the Blackhawks into a special team.

"It's such a close-knit group. Carefree is too loose of a word, but it's a confident group which doesn't let a whole lot bother them," he added."

All sorts of teams talk about being together, but this team is together like that team in Edmonton was together.

"These are fun guys who like to hang around with each other. They're the same age, come from the same background, have the same lifestyle, are single, a lot of them are Western Canadian kids as well. They're just a really good group of guys," said Quenneville.

Jonathan Toews, Cameron Barker and Duncan Keith are all from Winnipeg.

Brent Seabrook and Troy Brouwer are from Vancouver, Colin Fraser from Sicamous, B.C., Andrew Ladd from Maple Ridge, B.C., and remarkably they all played on the same kids' team together in Vancouver.

"It's funny when we come here. We joke that all the B.C. guys have to play for free. They have so many friends and family," said Adam Burish at the morning skate yesterday.

"It's exciting for them. They were Canuck fans growing up. Hopefully they'll beat up on their old favourite team and some of their old favourite players."

Kris Versteeg is from Lethbridge, Matt Walker from Beaverlodge and injured Brent Sopel from Calgary.

Call the Canucks Canada's Team if you wish. But these guys who eliminated Calgary to advance against Vancouver see themselves as Western Canada's Team.

Include Nova Scotia's Aaron Johnson, Ontario products Patrick Sharp, Ben Eager and Brian Campbell (and Patrick Kane who was born just on the other side of the border in Buffalo) and this team is a whole lot more Canadian than the Canadian team.

And it's O.K. to suggest they're an '80s team.

Eighteen of them were born in the '80s - 11 of them from 1985 to 1988.

And that's the thing, says Toews.

"I won't say anything bad about last year's team but we were all from different backgrounds and different ages and now it seems like we're almost all from the same backgrounds and the same ages and we spend so much time together and have so much fun together. It's been like that all year," said the kid captain who turned 21 Wednesday.

"Just watching our practice you can see it," said Kane of this team being a blast from the past. "You can see guys having fun when they score, hitting each other and interacting the way we do. It's part of what makes this group so tight.

"There aren't any cliques on this team. When we go out to dinner it's always eight and 10 guys."

SAME CLOTH

Kane says they hear the '80s Oilers references and don't know what to think of them because in today's salary-cap era, it's likely impossible to keep a team like this together long.

"If we could keep this team together a long time, something special could happen. It would be awesome to keep this group together. But we don't want to get too wrapped up in that. You never know what we can put together right now, this year in these playoffs. This could be our best chance and our last chance."


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