Somewhere, off in the distance, Gary Bettman is smiling down on his NHL kingdom.
During the lockout, the NHL commissioner said he believed fans would come flocking back to the arenas once the season returned. Despite people protesting the game, just about everyone (besides this guy) returned to the sport they love. Since the beginning of the shortened 2013 campaign, the Blackhawks have set numerous franchise and league-wide records and television ratings have been at their highest in regular-season history.
The Blackhawks 24-game point streak -- which was ended on Friday against the Colorado Avalanche -- rebuilt the excitement and passion for hockey not only in Chicago, but around the league. Every seat in the United Center has been full night after night. National writers have crammed into the press box to cover the team that has stunned the Western Conference since the season began. And now, even Sports Illustrated is hopping on board, featuring the Blackhawks on their national cover for the first time in 41 years.
According to Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch, the last time SI featured the Blackhawks on a national level, Bobby Hull graced the cover back in 1972.
And although Chicago's point streak has come to an end, the team's appeal hasn't. Now the Blackhawks are focused on working toward their ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup, and they'll continue with that mindset as they begin their four-game road trip in Columbus on Thursday.