Blackhawks in the playoffs? Chicago’s sports fans might as well rally around it


It’s a gift. We’ll take it.

Yes, I’m presuming to speak for the whole lot of us here, but how could anyone disagree?

We’ve got a real, live playoff game on our hands today — or at least a kinda-sorta one — and did I mention we’ll take it?

Look, we’re taking it.

Because if we don’t get all geeked up for Saturday’s best-of-five opener between the Blackhawks and Oilers from the NHL bubble in Edmonton, Alberta, we might as well stay stuck on our last playoff game involving a Chicago team in one of the big four professional leagues. Anyone remember what that was?

Hint: It involved a sweet kid named Cody Parkey and a double-doink heard ’round the world. As happy endings go, it ranked somewhere between a kick to the groin and a tire iron upside the head.

So, you know: Let’s go, Hawks!

I mean no disrespect to the Sky, who had a nice run in the 2019 WNBA playoffs, or to the Red Stars, who reached last year’s NWSL championship game. I tip my cap to the Wolves, too, for reaching last year’s Calder Cup finals.

But the Hawks, Bulls, Bears, Cubs and White Sox haven’t exactly been taking us on postseason thrill rides lately.

Before Parkey missed that unforgettable kick in the Bears’ 16-15 loss to the Eagles on Jan. 6, 2019, the sports landscape here looked much brighter than it does now. The Cubs — still with some shine from their 2016 World Series title — had at least reached the 2018 National League wild-card game. The Hawks, owners of three Stanley Cups in the decade, still bore the scent of relevance.

And the Bears? Goodness, some people here thought they just might be capable of a run to the Super Bowl.

But the Bears haven’t won a playoff game since the 2010 season. The Bulls haven’t won a playoff series since 2015. The Cubs haven’t won a playoff series since 2017. The Hawks haven’t won one since clinching the Cup over the Lightning in 2015. The Sox haven’t been in the playoff since 2008 and last won a series — a World Series sweep of the Astros — in 2005.

So, yes, we indeed shall accept this gift of tonight’s playoff action. A rather absurd 24-team return-to-play NHL format is behind it all. The Hawks, with 72 points through 70 games, were dead last among seven Central Division teams when play stopped in March due to the coronavirus outbreak. They were 12th in the Western Conference standings — dead men skating — yet here we are.

Somehow, we made it into the bubble.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “So, from that perspective, we expect the unexpected.”

Maybe the Hawks will give us some thrills. Maybe they’ll take down the Oilers and their twin superstars, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, the top two scorers in the NHL this season. Maybe we’ll get to believe for a while in maybe.

“Any big game, you get nervous for,” Colliton, heading into his playoff debut, said. “That’s how you know you’re alive.”

It’s nice to feel alive. Hawks winger Drake Caggiula met the media Thursday on Zoom with teeth missing and donning a T-shirt with Michael Jordan — smoking a cigar after a Bulls title — on the front. He bought it off Amazon after viewing the “Last Dance” documentary.

“Definitely representing Chicago with this thing,” Caggiula said.

OK, we’ll take it.

Goalie Corey Crawford also met the media — wearing a Sox cap. Should we take that, too?

We ought not be picky. A playoff game is upon us, after all. Might as well enjoy it, and dream some impossible dreams.