Where was the Stanley Cup? Game 6 of the finals had been over for several minutes, but the storied trophy was nowhere to be seen. The champion Chicago Blackhawks, fresh off their clinching 2–0 home victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, milled around on the United Center ice, waiting a little bit longer for the moment every young hockey player dreams about.
Most years the Cup is in the building when a championship is secured, but on Monday night in Chicago it was not. Severe storms had swept through the city earlier in the day, causing weather-related traffic issues that reportedly delayed the trophy’s arrival at the United Center.
As time ran out in Game 6, the Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy, which is awarded to the playoffs MVP, were still on their way to the arena.
Eleven minutes after the game’s conclusion, Keeper of the Cup Philip Pritchard finally carried the Conn Smythe down a long red carpet to center ice, where he placed the trophy on a small stand. Moments later, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman presented the award to Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith.
Now came the moment Chicago fans had anticipated for a long time. The Hawks’ 1961, 2010, and ’13 titles had been clinched on the road. The team had not won the Cup at home since 1938.
As Aaron Copeland’s dramatic “Fanfare for the Common Man” swelled in the background and fans craned their necks and clicked cameras, Pritchard and fellow Keeper Craig Campbell lugged the 34.5-pound silver trophy onto the rink and set it on the stand.
After a brief speech, Bettman handed the Cup to the Hawks’ captain, center Jonathan Toews. After a quick photo, Toews let out a mighty whoop and hoisted the Cup to the sky for the third time in his career. The crowd of 22,424 cheered wildly.
When the game began, it seemed as if the Hawks faithful might have to root their team on from afar for Game 7 back in Tampa, as the Blackhawks missed a handful of opportunities to take an early lead. They had two power plays and a 13–4 shot advantage but couldn’t capitalize.
Facing elimination, the Lightning brought plenty of energy in the opening moments of the second, creating several scoring opportunities, including on a Steven Stamkos breakaway. But Chicago goalie Corey Crawford kept the game scoreless.
As the period progressed, the Hawks began to take control. And with 2:47 to go in the second, they finally broke through. Keith scooped up a rebound of his own shot and elevated the puck over the outstretched glove of Lightning goalie Ben Bishop.
With 5:14 left in the game, winger Patrick Kane scored, and the city of Chicago breathed a collective sigh of relief. On a 3-on-2, center Brad Richards made a no-look cross-ice pass to Kane, who rifled a one-timer past Bishop for a 2–0 lead.
Pubs in the Wrigleyville neighborhood on the North Side of Chicago began to empty and people headed into the streets to celebrate. Police set up barricades, and helicopters hovered overhead in anticipation of the craziness that would ensue once the final horn sounded and continue late into the night.
During the final minutes inside the United Center, fans chanted, “We want the Cup!” The Hawks’ Andrew Desjardins was sent to the box for tripping, but that only served to briefly interrupt the jubilation.
Fans in the arena were on their feet, many holding smartphones to capture the historic moment. It was 9:54 p.m. The noise rose to deafening levels as fans chanted, “Five, four, three, two, one!”
The horn sounded, Crawford flung off his mask and gloves, and the goalie’s teammates raced from the bench to pile on him, leaving their gloves, helmets, and sticks strewn on the ice in their wake.
Later, they’d all get to hoist the Stanley Cup, and then there’d be the traditional team photo. They would head back to the locker room and pop some bottles of champagne, partying with family until well into the morning. For some it was their first Cup, for some their second, for some their third.
This was a team that had fought back from a 3–2 deficit against the Anaheim Ducks in the conference finals. This was a team that lost one of its stars, Kane, to injury during the crucial final stretch of the regular season. This was a team that wouldn’t accept anything other than the Hawks’ third championship in six years.
Once again, the Second City had finished in first place.
Photo: Nam Y. Huh/AP