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Blackhawks win 1961 Stanley Cup
It was not even the biggest news story in their own city. A late spring snowstorm, with drifts of up to 10 feet, dominated the news. In the middle of the front page in the next day's Tribune was a three-line headline: "Hawks bring Stanley Cup to Chicago." A 5-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on this date in Detroit gave the Chicago Blackhawks their first Cup in 23 years. For the city, it was the first championship in any major sport since 1947, when the old Chicago Cardinals won the National Football League title.
The Blackhawks, who played their first season in 1926-27, raised Lord Stanley's chalice for the first time in 1934 and again in 1938. After a long sentence in hockey Siberia, the Blackhawks emerged in the 1960-61 season as an almost perfect blend of youth and experience, backstopped by peerless goalie Glenn Hall, the "quiet, calm, nerveless knight of the nets," as the Tribune described him.Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull, the "Golden Jet," had yet to reach their prime but were already forces in the old six-team National Hockey League. Pierre Pilote, Ken Wharram and Eric Nesterenko were entering their glory years.
Still, with the team trailing 1-0 during the first intermission of this sixth game of the Cup final, coach Rudy Pilous had to give his players a pep talk. "I just told them," he said later, "tonight's game was worth $1,000 to the winner, and the loser gets nothing." For the rest of the game, the Hawks set about burying the Wings. The third period became an exhibition in championship hockey, with three Hawks tallying. (Actually, each Blackhawk received an extra $1,750 for winning. The Red Wings received $750 per man.)
It seemed to many that this would be the first in a series of Cup titles for the Blackhawks. Soon, a prolific young scorer, Phil Esposito, would be added.
But in 1967, the Hawks finished a glorious regular season first overall, only to fall in the semifinals. Esposito was traded. Hull left for Winnipeg. The Hawks were foiled twice--in 1971 and 1973--by Montreal in the final round. The team returned to the league finals in 1992, but four games later, the Pittsburgh Penguins raised the Cup.
On a mid-April night in 1961, however, the future appeared to offer endless possibilities. But there was no celebrating with the fans on that Sunday night. The Hawks' flight from Detroit was canceled because of the snowstorm.