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Blackhawks-Red Wings Has Been Building Since 1926

Saturday, 12.06.2008 / 11:27 AM / NHL Winter Classic 2009
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Blackhawks-Red Wings Has Been Building Since 1926
The Blackhawks-Red Wings rivalry built up to epic proportions over the years.

"I had no argument with the players on the Wings; my only argument was with Adams and how he ran the organization. We should have had five more Cups with that team. He traded nine guys from that team. He destroyed a dynasty. We won the League championship seven years in a row. Nobody will equal that again." -- Ted Lindsay on his rivalry with Jack Adams

The United Center isn't the drawing card the old Chicago Stadium, affectionately called the "Madhouse on Madison," used to be. But it does provide more seating for those great Blackhawks-Red Wings games, and they sure do pack them in when Detroit visits. Of the 10 largest crowds in United Center history (since 1994-95), seven are for Hawks-Wings clashes.

Give credit to a number of factors. Original Six status, proximity (the cities are separated by just 283 miles), a bushel of Hall-of-Fame builders, players and colorful personalities that fell short of immortality, intimidating home arenas, and classic jerseys that never have gone out of style and remain best-sellers today.

"That's a tough one to answer," was the initial answer from former Blackhawk and current Red Wing Dan Cleary, who finally made the safe call from a good-employee perspective. "I gotta go with the winged wheel, though Chicago has great colors and uniforms, as well."

Chicago and Detroit met in the postseason five times in the next nine seasons, with the Red Wings prevailing in three of the matchups.

Starting in 1970-71, Chicago was transferred to the West Division while Detroit remained in the East. In 1981-82, they were reunited in the reconfigured Norris Division and have been together ever since. Despite the time apart, the rivalry did not lose its steam.

"When I first started playing, going to Olympia, Howe was still playing and Alex Delvecchio was there," said Chicago Hall-of-Fame goaltender Tony Esposito when recalling his 1969-70 rookie season. "Hull was still with us. I was a young guy playing against 40-year-olds, so it was unique. We met Detroit in the playoffs in '70, beat them in four games, I remember that. As the years went on, I can remember the transition to Joe Louis Arena. It was a little different feel from Olympia.

"I had good success against Detroit. They were a division rival, so we needed those points. We played some great games."

Chicago native Eddie Olczyk played for the Blackhawks from 1984-85 through 1986-87 and now is a color commentator for NBC, which will broadcast the Winter Classic from Wrigley. His history with the Blackhawks-Red Wings rivalry goes back to the days when he first dreamed of playing in the NHL.

"For the Red Wings in the late '70s and early '80s, there was some tough sledding until (Steve) Yzerman came around and (Detroit owner Mike) Ilitch took over and the momentum turned, and then the Hawks went through tough times. But for those games, for sure you could throw out the current records. You knew you would get the best of both teams. I feel lucky to have played in that rivalry a handful of times. My rookie year we played Detroit in the playoffs, as well, and it was a real honor and privilege."

On Oct. 25, a crowd of 22,690 -- the fourth-largest in franchise history -- packed the United Center to witness a 6-5 shootout victory for the Red Wings, the first matchup of the current season. It was a barn-burner of a contest that saw the Blackhawks lead for most of the way until Detroit scored three third-period goals to briefly go in front. A 5-on-3 power-play goal by wunderkind Patrick Kane with 7:27 remaining in regulation forced overtime, which gave way to the shootout. On the final attempt, Marian Hossa blistered a point-blank slap shot past Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin to end another chapter in this storied rivalry, game No. 698.

"We've had some good battles," Cleary said. "That 6-5 shootout was an unbelievable game."
 
Here's hoping for another 700.

Contact Rocky Bonanno at rbonanno@nhl.com.

Author: Rocky Bonanno | NHL.com Staff Writer