When the Stanley Cup was finally presented to the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks this evening, the intro music for it was Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. These are not common men. In this modern era of multi-million dollar salaries, unrestricted free agency, and international appeal, these men are a dynasty. For the third time in six years, they get to hoist hockey's holy grail.
The Blackhawks took game six tonight 2-0 over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and won the best of seven final series four games to two. The score was 0-0 at the end of the first period, and for most of the second, but Duncan Keith rushed the net and followed his own missed shot to put Chicago up 1-0. In every game of the finals, neither team would have more than a one goal lead until 5:14 to go in the third period when Patrick Kane found the net, and sealed the victory. Yes it was the third Stanley Cup title in six years, but the first at home, and the first home cup clincher in Chicago since 1938.
As for the Stanley Cup itself, it's journey to the United Center could have its own story someday. Even with a police escort, torrential rain in the city, flooding, and tornado watches delayed its arrival. There was no announcement of the exact time it reached the building, but the somewhat late grand entrance wasn't noticed by the fans and players who were celebrating their team. It was about 20 minutes after the final buzzer before Copland was heard, but that was just more time for these uncommon men to congratulate each other, hear appreciation from their fans, and for some, let the realization of a lifelong dream try to sink in.
One of the traditions that makes the Stanley Cup presentation the greatest celebration in team sports, is the cup skate. The league commissioner presents the Stanley Cup to the team captain, who will hand it off to a teammate, who will hand it off again, until every player gets to hold it, and every corner of the arena gets to see it. There's also great tradition and esteem for the player who receives it first from the captain. Commissioner Gary Bettman presented it to captain Jonathan Toews, who after hoisting in the air for just a few seconds, gave it to 40 year-old defenseman Kimmo Timonen. While some Chicago players had done this ritual at least twice before, Timonen, a 15 year-year veteran from a town in Finland no one in the United States has heard of, had never won a Stanley Cup before. With a loud roar, he raised the 35-pound silver chalice over his head, and began to skate around, with an even louder roar from the crowd.
Copland's music with the trumpets blaring is thrilling music for a grand entrance, and it certainly is a fanfare, but hockey fans will tell you, this fanfare had nothing to do with the common man.
Cup post-script: For those who DVR'd the game, NBC didn't stay with the cup skate much longer after Timonen got the cup. Coverage switched to NBCSN at that point, which meant many of us didn't get to see it. You don't have to be a big Blackhawks fan, or even a really big hockey fan to enjoy a good celebration. Even if you only watched game six, it's easy to get into the post-game party that, again, is the best championship celebration in team sports.