By 1931 the Hawks reached their first Stanley Cup finals with goal-scorer Johnny Gottselig, Cy Wentworth on defense and Charlie Gardiner in goal, but fizzled in the final two games against the Montreal Canadiens. Chicago had another stellar season in 1932, but that did not translate into playoff success.
The Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in 1934 (over the Detroit Red Wings) with Charlie Gardiner's 1.73 goals-against average and Paul Thompson's 20 goals. Sadly, Gardiner died of a tonsil infection two months after the season ended.
After Chicago floundered over the next three years, they were thought to be a laughingstock in 1938 and only barely made the playoffs. They stunned the Montreal Canadiens and New York Americans on overtime goals in the deciding games of both series, advancing to the Stanley Cup finals against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Blackhawks goalie Mike Karakas was injured and couldn't play in the finals. A desperate team pulled minor-leaguer Alfie Moore out of a Toronto bar and onto the ice. In the two games Moore played, he only allowed two goals before Karakas was healthy enough to play again. It was too late for Toronto, as the Hawks won their second championship.
The Hawks got back to the finals in 1944 behind Doug Bentley and Bill Mosienko's 30-goal seasons and their linemate Clint Smith leading the league in assists. After upsetting the Detroit Red Wings in the semi-finals, they werte promptly dispatched by the juggernaut Montreal Canadiens in four games.
After two first-round exits at the hands of the eventual champions from Montreal in 1959 and 1960, it was expected that the Canadiens would once again beat the Hawks when they met in the semifinals in 1961. A defensive plan that completely wore down Montreal's superstars did the trick though, as Chicago won the series in six games. They then bested the Detroit Red Wings to win their last Stanley Cup championship.
The Hawks made the finals twice more in the 1960s, losing both times - to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1962 and Montreal Canadiens in 1965. Chicago remained a force to be reckoned with through the 1960s, with Bobby Hull's four 50-goal seasons in the decade and Glenn Hall in goal.
In 1971, with second-year goalie Tony Esposito (winner of the Calder Memorial Trophy for rookie of the year the previous season), the Hawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals before bowing out to the Canadiens. They repeated their appearance in 1973, again losing to Montreal.
For the rest of the 1970s, the Blackhawks made the playoffs each year but were never a serious Stanley Cup contender, losing 16 straight playoff games at one point. The team acquired Bobby Orr from the Boston Bruins in 1976, but ill health forced him to sit out for most of the season, and he eventually retired in 1979. Stan Mikita did the same the following year after playing 23 years in Chicago.
By 1982, the Blackhawks squeaked into the playoffs as the 4th seed in the Norris Division (at the time the top 4 teams in each division automatically made the playoffs), and were one of the league's Cinderella team that year. Led by second-year Denis Savard's 32 goals and 119 points, and Doug Wilson's 39 goals, the Hawks stunned the Minnesota North Stars and St. Louis Blues in the playoffs before losing to another surprise team, the Vancouver Canucks. Chicago proved they were no fluke the next season, also making the 3rd round before losing to the Edmonton Oilers. After an off year in 1984, the Hawks again faced Edmonton and lost in the 3rd round in 1985.
In the late 1980s Chicago still made the playoffs on an annual basis, but made early-round exits each time. It wasn't for a lack of offense though: Savard and Steve Larmer each consistently scored 30 goals a season.
In 1989, after three straight first-round defeats, and despite a 4th-place finish in their division in the regular season, Chicago made it to the Conference Finals in the rookie season of both goalie Ed Belfour and center Jeremy Roenick. Once again though, they would fail to make the Stanley Cup finals, losing to the eventual champion Calgary Flames.
The following season the Hawks did prove they were late-round playoff material, running away with the Norris Division title, but, yet again, the third round continued to stymie them, this time against the Edmonton Oilers. In 1991 Chicago was poised to fare even better in the playoffs, winning the President's Trophy for best regular-season record, but the Minnesota North Stars stunned them in 6 games in the first round en route to an improbable Stanley Cup Finals appearance.
In 1992 the Blackhawks, with Roenick scoring 53 goals, Chris Chelios (acquired from Montreal two years previously) on defense, and Belfour and future superstar Dominik Hasek splitting the goaltending duties, finally reached the final round. They were no match for Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins, losing in 4 straight games.
After a near-.500 season in 1994, the Blackhawks moved out of the old Chicago Stadium and into the new United Center in the lockout-shortened 1995 season. Bernie Nichols and Joe Murphy both scored 20 goals over 48 games, and Chicago once again made it to the third round, losing to the Detroit Red Wings.
Eric Daze, Alexei Zhamnov, Tony Amonte and goalie Jocelyn Thibault emerged as three of the team's leading stars by this time. However, Chicago missed the playoffs for 4 straight years until they took a quick first-round exit in 2002.
Amonte left for Phoenix in the summer of 2002, and Chicago missed the playoffs again in 2003.
Players of Note
Hall of Famers:
Not to be forgotten:
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