The Chicago Blackhawks are one of the most storied franchises in NHL history. As a member of the Original Six, Chicago has enjoyed a long and storied history as one of the most successful American franchises in the NHL. The Blackhawks won their last Stanley Cup in 1961.
The Blackhawks were founded in 1926, and were named after the infantry division that owner Frederick McLaughlin had served in during World War I. McLaughlin helped the Blackhawks become the first NHL team to ever dress a completely American born lineup. Chicago struggled to compete in the NHL at first, but managed to pull it together by 1931, reaching their first Stanley Cup Final. In 1934, the Blackhawks beat the Detroit Red Wings to win their first Cup in franchise history. In 1938, despite a dismal 14-25 record, the Blackhawks squeaked into the playoffs, where they upset Montreal, New York and Toronto on the way to winning their second Cup.
In the 1940s, the Blackhawks were the victim of a poor ownership arrangement, in which their new owner was controlled by Detroit Red Wings’ owner James Norris. Any talent that may have come along for Chicago was quickly moved to Detroit, without any fair exchanges taking place. Once Norris died, his older son and business partner took over the Chicago franchise and began to rebuild.
In the ’50s, the addition of several key players powered Chicago back to the top of the NHL. The drafting of Hall of Famers Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Pierre Pilote, combined with the acquisitions of former Red Wings players Ted Lindsay and Glenn Hall gave Chicago the building blocks with which to form a successful franchise. By 1961, the Blackhawks had become regular contenders in the playoffs, and won their 3rd and final Cup, beating Detroit again.
The 1960s would see the Blackhawks make the Finals twice more, but they lost on both occasions. Despite the lack of Stanley Cups, Chicago remained a powerful franchise. Bobby Hull was in the prime of his Hall of Fame career, developing the slapshot and regularly scoring over 50 goals in a season. Stan Mikita won multiple scoring titles, and Pilote won three straight Norris Trophies as the league’s best defenseman. Glenn Hall made his name as one of the all time greats in net during this decade.
When the league expanded, Chicago lost a number of key pieces that may have changed the future of their franchise. Star goalie Glenn Hall was drafted by the St. Louis Blue and Pierre Pilote was traded away. Prospects Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield were dealt to Boston in 1967. While no one could have known it at the time, these three would be part of the rejuvenation of the Boston franchise. Esposito would be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Hodge would finish his career with 800 points, and Stanfield went on to score over 600 points in his career. With a number of weak teams in the new West division after the expansion, Chicago ran all over the competition in 1971, until they lost to Montreal in the Cup Finals. One can only imagine what the 1970s would have been like for Chicago if they had had these great prospects. Adding to the dilemma, Bobby Hull left the NHL for the infant WHA in 1972.
The Blackhawks would win seven division titles in the 1970s, but never held it together long enough to win the Cup. Chicago made the playoffs every year in the 1980s, reaching the Conference Finals on multiple occasions. The additions of key players like Jeremy Roenick, Tony Amonte, Chris Chelios and Ed Belfour made Chicago one of the best teams in the Western Conference in the early nineties. Dominik Hasek made his NHL debut in Chicago, but the stellar play of Belfour relegated him to a backup role, before he was traded away and kicked off his amazing career. Chicago would continue to be a perennial playoff contender until 1998, when they missed the playoffs for the first time in 29 years.
In recent years, Chicago has been one of the worst franchises in the NHL. Since the lockout, Chicago has begun to rebuild, adding quality veterans in Adrian Aucoin and Nikolai Khabibulin, and drafting two of the top young players in the NHL, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, as well as highly controversial Kyle Beach. The Blackhawks also signed star defenseman Brian Campbell to an 8 year deal.
The Blackhawks play out of the United Center in Chicago, after moving from Chicago Stadium in 1994.
Stanley Cups won: 1933-34, 1937-38, 1960-61
Notable players: Tony Amonte, Adrian Aucoin, Ed Belfour, Brian Campbell, Chris Chelios, Paul Coffey, Roy Conacher, Eric Daze, Phil Esposito, Tony Esposito, Bill Gadsby, Charlie Gardiner, Doug Gilmour, Dirk Graham, Glenn Hall, Martin Havlat, Dominik Hasek, Ken Hodge, Cristobal Huet, Bobby Hull, Patrick Kane, Nikolai Khabibulin, Robert Lang, Martin Lapointe, Steve Larmer, Pit Martin, Stan Mikita, Howie Morenz, Bill Mosienko, Pierre Pilote, Jeremy Roenick, Denis Savard, Fred Stanfield, Pat Stapleton, Darryl Sutter, Jonathan Toews, Doug Wilson, Alexei Zhamnov