As the Hawks’ prospects continue to toil in the West Side heat, and I assume beg adults to buy them beer back at the hotel at night, I am left to wonder what could happen with the Hawks both on and off the ice when the season starts. And I wonder what the effect of having it happen totally in the dark in the Chicago sports scene will be.
One of the things that broke the Hawks’ way, and something that had nothing to do with John McDonough and Rocky Wirtz, is that their rise from hockey purgatory to the aristocracy was perfectly timed with the collapse of the rest of the Chicago sports scene. The ’08-’09 season started just days after both the White Sox and Cubs ate it in the Division Series (the Cubs much more spectacularly than the Sox), and neither would even come close to a playoff spot for another seven seasons. Well, actually, the Sox came within three games in 2012 but you didn’t know that because no one went and no one cared. TELL ME I’M WRONG FIFTH FEATHER.
To go along with that, the city’s juggernaut, the Bears, have only made one playoff appearance in this Hawks’ era. Sure, the end of the ’08-’09 season saw the Bears trade for Jay Cutler, and at the time that was a far bigger story than the Hawks ever produced (which might be why he dropped the puck at Game 1 that year). But the Lovie doldrums persisted, and we know what happened after that. The Bulls spasmed one conference final run, where it was promptly snuffed out as soon as LeBron started guarding Derrick Rose. The Cubs run started just at the end of the last Hawks’ championship. Quite simply, for more years than you can believe now, the Hawks had the stage to themselves. They were the only story in a city that had been starved for championships…because the Sox one doesn’t count, obviously. Nor did it ever happen.
That won’t be the case this year. The Bears, whatever they’re going to be, are going to be awfully interesting and awfully watched. The Cubs likely have a fourth-straight October to navigate. Even the Bulls, who will still suck most likely, have done SOMETHING this summer, even if signing Zach Lavine is a touch weird for that money and Jabari Parker might have one knee. It’s something they can push when the season opens. There are new toys to at least carry some novelty.
So even if the Hawks were to start say, 3-7-1, the front pages of the various sports sections and sites around town aren’t going to be adorned with a picture of Quenneville looking bemused with a headline like, “There Is No Joy In Quenneville.’ (Like they’d ever come up with something that creative!) Columnists around town, even if the collection of them would struggle to define what offsides in hockey is, are not going be penning a host of works calling for massive changes. They’ll be focusing on one out pattern MITCH BETTAH HAVE MY MONEY threw against the Lions. The external pressure, other than from impatient fans in the building–and even that’s questionable given how many sell their tickets early in the season–and the yappy construction workers that act as McD’s focus group, is just not going to be there.
Which leads me to wonder if that’s a comfort or an annoyance for the Hawks. No question they loved the spotlight. But given the iffy decisions of late and some of the facade of what they are falling down around them, do they enjoy the darkness? The lack of scrutiny? Would they want real questions being asked?
Or would the lack of attention really bother them? Would they do something–firing Q or a big trade or something of that ilk–to try and get the lights back on however much they could? Would they abandon whatever plan they have if they felt they had fallen too far back in the consciousness?
One way or another, we’re going to find out what kind of hockey town they’ve actually created here, and how they feel about it when we do.