Chicago Blackhawks History
The Chicago Blackhawks are one of five teams in the Central Division of the Western Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). The Blackhawks play at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, and wear uniforms of black, red, and white. The team was originally formed as the Portland Rosebuds of the Western Hockey League. Major Frederic McLaughlin purchased the club in 1926 and moved it from Portland, Oregon, to Chicago. He renamed the team the Blackhawks after the 33rd Machine Gun Battalion of the United States Army’s Blackhawk Division, which he had commanded during World War I (1914-1918).
The Blackhawks were a powerful team in the NHL in the 1930s, winning the Stanley Cup championship in 1934 and 1938. During the 1960s and early 1970s the team was led by Bobby Hull at left wing and Stan Mikita at center, and Chicago advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals five times. In the 1960s Hull and Mikita each earned two Hart Memorial Trophies as the NHL’s most valuable player (MVP).
The Blackhawks joined the NHL in 1926, when the league expanded from seven to ten teams and divided into two divisions—the American and the Canadian. Chicago first reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1931. The Blackhawks captured their first league title in 1934, defeating the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals. In 1932 and 1934 goalie Charlie Gardiner, who anchored the team’s remarkable defense, earned the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie.
In 1936 goalie Mike Karakas was awarded the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year. In 1938, with Karakas in goal and defenseman Earl Seibert leading the team, the Blackhawks compiled a win-loss-tie record of only 14-25-9, but they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup Finals to collect their second NHL title. Directing the team was first-year head coach Bill Stewart, a former NHL referee and American League baseball umpire. He was the team’s 12th coach in 11 seasons. Chicago returned to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1944 with a lineup featuring Doug Bentley at left wing and his brother Max Bentley at center. Bill Mosienko also starred at right wing. All three members of this line, called The Pony Line because they were small but swift, went on to be Hockey Hall of Fame members. In the 1944 finals, however, the team lost to the Montréal Canadiens; it was Chicago’s last trip to the championship round for 17 years.
From 1945 to 1960 the Blackhawks qualified for the playoffs only four times, placing last in their division 9 seasons out of 16. Noteworthy individual achievements during this time were Max Bentley’s Hart Memorial Trophy in 1946 and goalie Al Rollins’s Hart Memorial Trophy in 1954.
A team featuring four future Hall of Fame members skated its way to Chicago’s third Stanley Cup title in 1961 under the direction of head coach Rudy Pilous. Goalie Glenn Hall and defenseman Pierre Pilote anchored the team’s strong defense, and Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita directed the offense. Tony Esposito, another eventual Hall of Fame inductee, took over as goalie in 1969. The Blackhawks competed in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1962, losing to the Maple Leafs, and in 1965, 1971, and 1973, losing to the Canadiens.
Chicago was one of the NHL’s steadiest teams in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, consistently qualifying for the playoffs. During the 1980s center Denis Savard was a top scorer, and Doug Wilson became one of the league’s toughest defensemen. In both 1991 and 1993 Ed Belfour earned the Vezina Trophy as the league’s outstanding goalie. In 1993 and 1996 Chris Chelios earned the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the league’s outstanding defenseman. Also in the early 1990s, center Jeremy Roenick was an essential high-scoring member of the Blackhawks’ offense.
In 1992 Chicago reached the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 19 years. Belfour backed the strongest defense in the conference. In the playoffs the Blackhawks set a single-season playoff record by winning 11 consecutive games. In the championship round, however, Chicago lost to the defending-champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Official Chicago Blackhawks Web Site