Just six months ago, the chances of seeing a 2013 NHL season looked less probable as the lockout progressed. But after a mid-January meeting between the players and owners went deep into the night, a 48-game season was saved. And from that moment on, the Blackhawks have taken the league by storm.
What began as a record-breaking point streak led to the Blackhawks receiving the Presidents' Trophy as they skated into the playoffs. After a number of hard-fought postseason matchups, the Blackhawks are just hours away from beginning a final battle against the Boston Bruins for their second Stanley Cup since the 2009-10 season.
"2010 was a dream come true and now we're back at the big dance and the players have worked very hard," Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz said. "They came into the season in terrific shape and knew what to expect in the middle of January and the fans have been very supportive of this great team."
The Blackhawks have retained eight of their 2010 Stanley Cup-winning players, and since their season began there have been plenty of questions about the similarities and differences to their championship team. Wirtz can't help but notice the similar chemistry the 2013 team has and credits much of the Blackhawks' success to their ability to work together as a group.
"The team is playing like a team. They don't let themselves down. They like each other and they play that way," Wirtz continued. "We see that in each round of the playoffs -- when you think you're down, you're really not down. They never let themselves down.
"You truly have a team instead of a bunch of individuals."
After months of meetings and failed attempts to get the season started, the 2013 campaign was finally under way. For Wirtz, there couldn't be a better ending.
"It's a storybook ending to a shortened season. If you could script this in the middle of January, you couldn't ask for anything better," Wirtz said. "Very few people in sports can say they've been to the big dance twice in four years. We were lucky enough to win it the first year and we'd be privileged to win it the second. Just to be here twice in four years is something special for the organization and the team."