Stickers, surprises and shutouts: Reflecting on a season of Chicago sports

| Editor-in-Chief

I’ve probably spent somewhere between $200 and $500 on stickers during the course of my life. I’ve laughed and screamed and even cried over stickers (and chucked a few of them at my mom). But my favorite of all these stickers is a “1-800-Chelsea-Dagger” sticker featuring a cartoon Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks.

For the past week, the Blackhawks have been largely on my mind—and not only because my sticker finally came in the mail. The Stanley Cup playoffs are underway, and, as usual, the Hawks are contenders. Or they were contenders before they dropped three straight games to the Nashville Predators.

The Nashville Predators' Viktor Arvidsson (38) blocks the shot attempt of the Chicago Blackhawks' Artem Anisimov (15) in the first period of Game 1 in the first round of the playoffs at the United Center in Chicago on Thursday, April 13, 2017. Chris Sweda | Chicago Tribune | TNS

The Nashville Predators’ Viktor Arvidsson (38) blocks the shot attempt of the Chicago Blackhawks’ Artem Anisimov (15) in the first period of Game 1 in the first round of the playoffs at the United Center in Chicago on Thursday, April 13, 2017.

In Game 1, the Hawks were bad. They couldn’t string together any offense, but the Preds weren’t much better, and the game ended in a boring (albeit a bit disappointing) 1-0 win for Nashville. Game 2 was a lot worse. Not only did the Hawks fail to score yet again, but they let up five goals to Nashville—and the crowd booed as their hometown team’s quest for the Cup began to fade away.

I remained hopeful. For any other hockey team, this loss would equal devastation. Not for my Hawks, though. After all, this team has won three championships in the past decade. They scored two goals in 17 seconds to win Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. They came back from behind to beat the (mighty) Anaheim Ducks in the 2015 Western Conference Final. There was no way they’d be ousted by a so-so team like Nashville that has little to no chance of winning the NHL’s most elusive prize.

But then Game 3 happened. The Hawks started things off right, going into the third period with a two-goal lead. Their problem? Filip Forsberg of the Predators came back with two goals in the final period, taking the game to overtime. And in overtime, the Blackhawks went down for the third straight game. I collapsed onto my twin XL bed, feeling thoroughly defeated.

Sure, the Hawks have had a lot of recent success. But sports are all about who’s good now. No one cares that the New York Islanders dominated in the early 1980s or that the Edmonton Oilers won four Stanley Cups with Wayne Gretzky as their star.

No one cares, either, about the past success of the other team that plays in the United Center, the Bulls. The Bulls have mired in mediocrity the past few years—primarily because of their reliance on Derrick Rose, who had approximately one strong season before suffering major injuries that would redefine his entire career.

Even with Rose gone, the Bulls are still just an OK team, a team that does just well enough to make it to the playoffs but go no further, a team that should probably not be mentioned in a serious discussion of championship contenders.

And yet, here they are, up two games to none against the No. 1-seed Boston Celtics. Surprises happen in sports, but the No. 8-seed Bulls beating the Celtics would be a really big one (this is only the second time a No. 8 seed has gone up 2-0 against a No. 1). Who would ever have predicted that the Bulls would be up 2-0 and the Blackhawks down 3-0? I sure didn’t think so last week when I picked out a “Hotline Bling”-inspired Kane sticker over one of a tuxedoed Jimmy Butler holding a basketball on a plate.