Admit it. Not even the most ardent Chicago Blackhawks supporter expected it. Sure, they were third. Yes, it was likelier they pick at three, four, or or five.
But getting the pick that brings hockey phenom Connor Bedard to the Chicago Blackhawks?
Christmas came early in Chicago.
Could the Rebuild Shift Gears in Chicago?
Now this is a topic for another article, and it’s coming in time. Everyone needs a moment to process. But the Blackhawks were staring down, at the very least, a two-three year rebuild that would need some luck to put it into high gear. They got it Monday.
Bedard is now on par to be one of the biggest game changing prospects in Chicago history not named Michael Jordan or Derrick Rose. Lofty? Yes. For the Blackhawks’ case, they’re hoping his fortunes mirror the former and not the latter.
But make no mistake about it, the roar will hit fever pitch on opening night when Bedard likely skates out for the opening introductions.
Yet that still doesn’t answer the question. Perhaps because it’s likely a more complicated answer.
Whatever it is, the city savors what seems like its biggest victory in some time.
Chicago, NHL needs the Blackhawks to Be Relevant
Believe me, the conspiracy theories abound whenever the NHL and the Draft Lottery is involved. Heck, when Chicago leapfrogged to third overall in 2019 people were aghast. When the Rangers won the lottery in 2020, they changed the whole damn setup because fans were in a tizzy.
But in a sport that’s often consider “niche,” it needs its biggest markets and traditional fans all-in. It’s been almost a decade since the Blackhawks made a real run at the Stanley Cup. 2016 was a seven-game loss to St. Louis in the quarterfinals. 2017? A sweep at the hands of the eighth-seeded Nashville Predators.
The 2020 bubble series that saw Chicago dispatch Edmonton was simply a mirage. They haven’t sniffed anything close since. Everything, from the psyche of a fanbase to a general manager Kyle Davidson’s rebuild strategy changed with the flip of a few cards.
Regardless of where any hockey fan stands tonight, Chicago has won the closest thing to the Stanley Cup. If Bedard measures out to be the generational player he appears to be, legions of Blackhawks fans young and old will say where they were the night NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly flipped that card over–giving Chicago the coveted Canadian center.
Much remains to be seen. A lot still has yet to play out.
But the Blackhawks just got their golden ticket out of rebuild hell.