Ten Reasons Why The Time Is Ripe for a Sharks-Blackhawks Rivalry

[Editor's Note]: Mr. K has had an idea for this piece for about six months now, and did a real solid job with it. Think of it as a return from retirement for another shot at the belt. Only fitting to get him back on the front page.

10. Lack of mutual playoff history.

Since the 1991-92 season, when the Sharks were birthed and the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1973, San Jose has been to the post-season 13 times, compared to Chicago's 9 times. 

In the quality vs. quantity department, Chicago has been to the Conference Finals 3 times prior to now (winning once), while San Jose has been just once (losing to Calgary). 

However, this is the first time that the two teams have met in the playoffs.  For the reasons outlined below, it couldn't come at a better time.

9. Captain Obvious' Reason #1: Doug Wilson, Sharks GM and former Blackhawk defenseman

Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson was a Norris Trophy-winning Chicago Blackhawks defenseman before becoming the first captain in San Jose Sharks history. He is still to this day the all-time scoring leader among Chicago defensemen, and 5th in points out of any Hawk (after only Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, Denis Savard, and Steve Larmer).

Wilson came to San Jose the same year that his old Hawks made it to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1973. DW retired after two seasons in San Jose, but returned 10 years later as the GM, following Dean Lombardi's sacking.

Don't underestimate the regret he must have felt for not ever partaking in the Cup Finals. There's a reason Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, Rob Blake, and Dany Heatley have been summoned to San Jose.

Doug Wilson also played with and redeemed another reason...

8. Captain Obvious' Reason #2: Jeremy Roenick

While future Hall of Famer center Jeremy Roenick played for several other teams in his career, the bookends of his legacy were Chicago and San Jose. As a symbol of the debt owed to both teams, he asked Chicago to hold their Jeremy Roenick Heritage Night when the San Jose Sharks were in town, back in November 2009.

To think of Jeremy Roenick watching each and every game from a box in both the HP Pavilion and United Center gives me chills. Really, it's just because I'm afraid to know who he's truly rooting for.

7. Captain Obvious' Reason #3: Brian Campbell

Ask a Sharks fan what he thinks of Brian Campbell, and you'll likely hear "Boo" or a sarcastically intoned "SPINORAMA!" As Mr. Plank and others have pointed out, it's lame, but it's what we do.

Why? It goes back to 2008 - Brian Campbell (and a 7th-rounder) is traded from the Buffalo Sabres for Steve Bernier and a 1st round pick. I remember sharing the sentiment of my fellow fan who held up a sign at every game, "I've been waiting for this for 3 years." Other signs seen at the Tank as the Sharks went on a standings-tear through March = "Sign him!" "Soupy!"

Etc.

Semifinals, Game 6, Dallas = In the 4th overtime, Campbell trips Loui Eriksson, and Brenden Morrow scores the game-winner on the power play. Well, we're Sharks fans-- shit happens.

The hell? Campbell signs with Chicago? Buh bye first round pick.

I'm a Christian (despite my language), an American, and a Sharks fan. Accordingly, my unholy trinity of backstabbers contains Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, and Brian Campbell.

Apparently I'm not alone in my sentiment-- just listen to the sweet serenades the HP Pavilion lauds upon Soupy everytime he touches the puck.

Given that the absence of Campbell paved the way for Dan Boyle's salary hit and even more consistent play (own goals notwithstanding), is it rational to boo Soupy when he touches the puck?

You might as well ask if nipples on a man are rational. All I know is it happens.

When ZeroIndulgence, Lurker Shark and I were in Chicago (for the aforementioned Jeremy Roenick Heritage Night), we booed Campbell's name when it was mentioned in the starting lineup. The family of four in front of us turned around and looked at us like we had shot their poodle. In other words, it was awesome.

6. Trent Yawney

I'm always surprised by how little this is mentioned. Sharks assistant coach Trent Yawney not only spent four seasons playing with Doug Wilson on the Hawks, but also spent a miserable 13 months behind the bench as Chicago's head coach in 2005-06, during which time the team missed the playoffs (a perennial Chicago tradition, so it would seem then). He was let go 21 games into the 2006-07 season and replaced with another former teammate and Blackhawks legend, Denis Savard.

Does Trent Yawney have an ax to grind? My goodness, I certainly hope so.

5. Both teams have made the Conference Finals the season after being a President's Trophy first round flop

The year before making the Campbell Conference Finals, Chicago won the President's Trophy. They lost in the semifinals (then known as the first round) to the Minnesota North Stars, 4 to 2.

Flash forward nearly 20 years - the San Jose Sharks win the President's Trophy, and are ousted in the quarterfinals by the Anaheim Ducks, 4 to 2.

Crushing despair, followed 12 months later by redemption. Will the Sharks make it to the big dance like the Hawks of yesteryear?

If so, I pray we're not swept by Pittsburgh, as the Hawks were in '92.

4. Chicago actually played well against the Sharks this year

San Jose's all-time record against the Hawks is 37-24-5-5. From the end of the lockout until the beginning of this season, the Sharks had basically used Chicago like a punching bag, losing only three times in 16 games (once in the shootout).

This year, however... this year was different.

Building upon the two consecutive victories they had at the end of the '08-'09 season, the Blackhawks won 3 of their 4 draws against San Jose this year, including a come-from-behind O.T. victory on (what else?) Jeremy Roenick Heritage Night. In those 4 games, the Hawks outscored us 17 to 11.

Hey, at least we got the Wings' number this year. Right?

(crickets)

3. BLOG WAR!

"This is our year." Good gravy I cringe when I hear that come out of my mouth. Yet it's a common refrain among both Chicago fans and San Jose fans - two fanbases starved for Lord Stanley. It's been nearly 50 years since the Cup has found its way to Chicago, and San Jose... is, well, San Jose.

While Mr. Plank is rather muted in his Sharks-homerism, the good boys over at Second City Hockey were a little (how shall we say this?) arrogant in their Hawks pride earlier this season.

From SamFels after the Hawks 4-3 OT win over the Sharks =

A series between these two would be tons of fun. Even more so because I can't see how the Hawks wouldn't win it.

Bitch, it's on. To reword Eric Cartman, "BLOG WAR!"

2. Ed Belfour

Belfour would be lower on my list, if on it at all, had he not been demonically at the core of the Sharks' post-season flops. Sure, the Vezina winner had success in CHICAGO, Dallas, Toronto, and even in Florida... but his 13 mostly dismal games as a Shark were haunting Teal Town.

Literally. Thank goodness for exorcisms (yours too, Megalodon).

1. Gregory Raye

I know what you're probably thinking - WHO?

 

(NOTE = I'm trying to reach the owner of the video to see about getting it to work again.  Greg is the guy in the middle, unless I'm very much mistaken)

Gregory Raye was the uber-Sharks fan responsible for turning Section 209 into a hockey version of the Yankee Stadium bleachers. He was loud, he was organized... no, I never met him. But I heard him, and anyone in the Tank prior to his death from falling in a ravine in 2006 heard him as well. Ever wonder why the anthem singers wait for 209 to shout "You suck!" to the opposing players before they start singing? Greg's the reason.

From his Mercury News obituary:

The thousands who fill HP Pavilion for Sharks games didn't know Gregory Raye by name. But they knew where Raye, a fan since the team's days at the Cow Palace, sat. And they knew his voice. He sat in section 209, the rowdiest location in the building. And when it came to that group's funny, rude and sometimes profane chants, he was their leader. "He used to like to say, "They say San Jose is the loudest arena in the NHL and we're the loudest section in the arena and I'm the loudest fan in the section, so I must be the loudest fan in the NHL,'' his friend Mike Lawler recalled. Lawler and others in section 209 are adjusting to the fact they will have to get along without their leader.

What does Gregory Raye have to do with a Sharks-Blackhawks rivalry? Raye was a Chicago native before moving to San Jose, and as the story goes, the one team he personally refused to chant "You suck!" to was his boyhood team, the Chicago Blackhawks.  If my understanding is correct, he would hold his peace while those around him offered somewhat muted versions of their standard antagonism.  After all, it's hard to go gung-ho while the general stays mum.

Accordingly (and I'm really trying not to sound like an asshole here), I personally believe that, in a mystical sense, Greg was the one barrier to the full fruition of a Sharks-Blackhawks rivalry.  As much as he will always be missed, his passing opens the way for a full-fledged war between the denizens of Teal Town and the maniacs in the Madhouse.  He taught all of us, be it directly or indirectly, how to be part of the most difficult arena for opposing teams to play in... and by Jove, we're going to make it hell for Chicago.

Greg, may he rest in peace, would have loved this series. 

GO SHARKS.

Sincerely,

Chuck Ficago

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