Updated: April 1, 2013 11:53AM
It’s a national religion in Canada, but hockey in America is a niche sport — confusing to most of us and followed by zealous fans greatly outnumbered by those who follow the three other major team sports. But that’s changing quickly in the Chicago area.
How ’bout those Blackhawks?
Their amazing start to this truncated season — overcoming a brutal early road schedule and setting an NHL record — has the region buzzing.
Folks who didn’t know a slap shot from a cross-check, and who still can’t appreciate the intricacies of the game, are talking about the Blackhawks and watching and listening to the games. Even SportsCenter is showing game highlights.
Everybody loves a winner, and the Hawks, even with a deep and talented roster, are winning at a stunning pace.
Heading into Thursday’s match in St. Louis, they’ve won 16 of their 19 games — losing the other three in a shootout, thereby gaining at least one point every time they’ve taken the ice. (If you’re not sure how that works, sorry, we don’t have the space to elaborate. Find a friend or co-worker who’s a puckhead.)
The 19 games without a loss in regulation time is a new mark, breaking the 16 achieved by the Anaheim Ducks during the 2006-07 season, when they won the Stanley Cup.
What’s more, the Blackhawks have gained a point in 25 consecutive games dating to last season — the third-longest streak in NHL history but still 10 behind the record of the Philadelphia Flyers in 1979-80 (when they lost in the Cup Final.)
All this winning has further fueled the Blackhawks’ resurgence, which includes the 2010 Stanley Cup and began when Rocky Wirtz took over the team after the death of his father in 2007. Those years not long ago when the team was an afterthought on Chicago’s sports scene and struggled to fill half the United Center seem far away now.
The unbelievable run may end Thursday, but here’s hoping the Hawks use it is a springboard to another Cup. Now excuse us while we try to figure out the rule on icing ...