Wednesday, June 9, 2010

So Long to Hockey Season (Almost)

The Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 OT win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 6 of the 2010Stanley Cup Finals tonight just about signals the end of yet another on-ice campaign - minus the Calder Cup Finals in the American Hockey League, which is currently tied at two games apiece between Texas and Hershey.

It was a season (so far) in which Chicago won it all in the NHL for the first time since 1961; Canada claimed both men's and women's Olympic hockey gold on home soil in Vancouver; the Czech Republic took home the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship; a Boston school earned a third consecutive NCAA Division I men's hockey national title, with Boston College accomplishing the feat for the second time in three years; and the OHL's Windsor Spitfires dominated their major junior competition in winning their second straight Memorial Cup.

There's two neat things that stand out about the Blackhawks winning the Cup for the first time in 49 years, among other notes such as Marian Hossa earning his first Cup in his third straight Finals with three different teams. This year's Cup-winning goal was netted by an American in Buffalo-born Patrick Kane, even if most people had no idea where the puck went after he shot it until the play was reviewed. After the goal was ruled good, the Cup was first lifted by a former collegiate player in Chicago captain Jonathan Toews. The former North Dakota Fighting Sioux also took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, tying a Blackhawks playoff record with 29 points.

Toews wasn't along among ex-NCAA players who helped Chicago claim its fourth-ever Cup. Former UVM Catamount forward Patrick Sharp scored 11 goals for the Hawks this spring, including one in the Game 6 clincher, while former Michigan State defenseman Duncan Keith contributed 17 points and seven teeth to the Chicago cause this spring. John Madden (Michigan) earned his third Cup ring in his first season with his new team to go along with his 1996 NCAA title with the Wolverines, while Adam Burish (Wisconsin) can now add a Cup to his 2006 national championship with the Badgers. And in the same year that the University of Alaska Fairbanks made the NCAA Hockey Tournament for the first time ever, Nanook alumnus Jordan Hendry won his first NHL title.

The Flyers had a smaller share of contributing collegians in their amazing postseason run, as youngsters Matt Carle (Denver), Darroll Powe (Princeton), Jared Ross (Alabama-Huntsville) and James Van Riemsdyk (UNH) all saw playoff action for Philadelphia. The Flyers went from barely qualifying as the Eastern Conference seventh seed after winning a shootout on the last day of the regular season, to coming within two victories of winning hockey's biggest prize.

So that's it for the NHL this season. After the AHL gets done in the next week or so, hockey goes dark until it all starts again in September. There's 88 days until Labor Day, one night after the Blackhawks No. 88 (Kane) finally made it Chicago's year.