CSNChicago.com is taking a look back at what turned out to be a memorable year in the Windy City, by counting down the 13 biggest Chicago sports stories of 2013. Check back each day to see what other storylines were good enough to make the list.
The Chicago Blackhawks returned from the lockout like every other NHL team in mid-January, hoping for a strong start to the 48-game season.
The Blackhawks’ start wasn’t strong as much as it was absurd – and record-breaking. The Blackhawks got out to a 21-0-3 mark that grabbed the league’s attention and guaranteed the Blackhawks weren’t suffering from post-lockout lethargy.
In a season with so many memorable moments, the Blackhawks set one right out of the gate. Halfway through the lockout-shortened season, the Blackhawks were still without a regulation loss – that would come in Game 25 against the Colorado Avalanche. But by that time the Blackhawks were sitting pretty, holding, and never relinquishing, the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference.
As good as the Blackhawks handled the burgeoning streak on the ice, they did just as well off it, deflecting the constant questions that could have been a distraction. “How far can it go?” “Are you feeling the pressure in each game?” Perhaps they were counting the potential numbers in their head. Maybe they were feeling some pressure. If they were, they weren’t showing it.
Still, when the streak reached its inevitable conclusion on March 8 in Denver, there was a sense of appreciation for what they accomplished. There was also a sense of relief.
“It’s a great accomplishment. From start to finish, they found different ways of winning, night in and night out,” Joel Quenneville said after that loss. “To contribute to something that hasn’t been done, it’s a great feather in our cap. It was fun up to today, and we should be proud.”
The Blackhawks’ disappointment after that game was short lived. They returned home and, as we wrote the next day, to normalcy.
“I’d say, maybe, with the last handful of games, the talk about it kind of got out of control,” Jonathan Toews said at the time. “But through everything, the guys in the room always focused on the same things, and that was being prepared to play our team game.”
We all know how the story ends, with a finale as stunning and incredulous as the beginning. The Blackhawks reached a few milestones en route to their second Stanley Cup in four seasons. The start was the catapult to it all.
Top 13 stories of 2013
7. Blackhawks' record-breaking start