For Blackhawks fans, it’s the most wonderful time of year

By Mubarak Salami

For most people, the holiday season doesn’t start until Thanksgiving. However, Chicagoans are not most people, and for them, the holiday season started Thursday.

No, the Cubs did not win the pennant and no, the Bears did not defeat the Packers, but Chicago’s one true champion took the ice Thursday night for the first time this season.

The Blackhawks, the one team the city has been able to count on in recent years, started their quest for the Stanley Cup.

With a football team that constantly underachieves, a basketball team that is unable to stay healthy enough to advance deep into the playoffs, and two baseball teams that might as well be non-existent, the Blackhawks are the only bright spot in the world of sports for the city.

Luckily, the Blackhawks should be able to provide that.

After losing to the Kings — the eventual Stanley Cup champions — in the Western Conference Finals last year, the Hawks are one of the favorites to bring home Lord Stanley’s Cup this year.

Jonathan Toews, widely regarded as the class of the NHL, has become a popular early pick for league MVP by numerous NHL writers.

Then there’s Patrick Kane, who is arguably the most dazzling, electrifying player in all of hockey. The 25-year-old who was once an immature kid with lots of potential, is now an established veteran who has provided Chicago with countless clutch performances and memorable playoff moments.

Toews and Kane figure to lead the way for Chicago.

However, the road to the Cup will not be easy. In fact, it will be as hard as it has ever been.

The Hawks belong to the best division in the NHL, the Central division in the Western Conference, and it got even better this offseason. The Stars, Blues and Avalanche all added elite talent, namely at the center position, which is sure to make the battle for the division crown a dogfight. Between the Hawks, Wild, Stars, Blues and Avalanche, there are five teams that have a legitimate chance to bring home the Central Division, something that no other division in hockey can boast.

Also, the playoff system setup won’t make it any easier for Chicago. With the way it is set up, the Hawks are guaranteed to play a divisional opponent in the first two rounds, which will bring an added dimension of intensity and physicality to what will already be a hard-fought playoffs.

Though the journey will not be easy, if they are able to get out of their division, the Blackhawks should be right in the thick of things.

With their mainstay of stars on both offense and defense, as well as the addition of Brad Richards, a crafty veteran who can play center for the teams’ second line, the Hawks are sure to compete for a title this year.

If they are able to bring home the Cup this season, the Hawks will effectively establish themselves as one of most successful dynasties we have seen in sports this past decade. Three championships in six years would be quite a feat in this day and age.

A city that has earned the name “Chiberia” because of its extremely cold weather conditions during the wintertime, Chicagoans will need to brace themselves as forecasters and experts are already predicting this winter to be one of the worst in Chicago’s history. Ironically enough, who would have thought that the warmest place for Chicagoans to turn to would be the Madhouse on Madison, a place full of ice.

Mubarak is a senior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @justmubar.