The club's original owner was Frederic McLaughlin, who owned the club until his death in 1944. Under McLaughlin, a "hands-on" owner who fired many coaches during his ownership, the club won two Stanley Cup titles. The club was then owned by the Norris family, who as owners of the Chicago Stadium were the club's landlord, and owned stakes in several of the NHL teams. At first, the Norris ownership was as part of a syndicate fronted by long-time executive Bill Tobin, and the team languished in favor of the Norris-owned Detroit Red Wings. After the senior James E. Norris died in 1952, the Norris assets were spread among family members and James D. Norris became owner. Norris Jr. took an active interest in the team and under his ownership, the club won one Stanley Cup title in 1961.
After James D. Norris died in 1966, the Wirtz family became owners of the franchise. In 2007, the club came under the control of Rocky Wirtz, who is credited with turning around the organization, which had lost fan interest and competitiveness. Under Rocky Wirtz, the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup three times between 2010 and 2015.
McLaughlin had been a commander with the 333rd Machine Gun Battalion of the 86th Infantry Division during World War I. This division was nicknamed the "Blackhawk Division" after a Native American of the Sauk nation, Black Hawk, who was a prominent figure in the history of Illinois. McLaughlin named the new hockey team in honor of the military unit, making it one of many sports team names using Native Americans as icons. However, unlike the military division, the team's name was spelled in two words as the "Black Hawks" until 1986, when the club officially became the "Blackhawks," based on the spelling found in the original franchise documents.
The Black Hawks began play in the 1926–27 season, along with fellow expansion franchises the Detroit Cougars (now the Detroit Red Wings) and New York Rangers. The team had to face immediate competition in Chicago from Eddie Livingstone's rival Chicago Cardinals, which played in the same building. McLaughlin took a very active role in running the team despite having no background in the sport; he hired Bill Tobin, a former goaltender who had played in the Western League, as his assistant, but directed the team himself. He was also very interested in promoting American hockey players, then very rare in professional hockey. Several of them, including Doc Romnes, Taffy Abel, Alex Levinsky, Mike Karakas, and Cully Dahlstrom, become staples with the club, and under McLaughlin, the Black Hawks were the first NHL team with an all-American-born lineup.
The Black Hawks played their first game on November 17, 1926, against the Toronto St. Patricks in the Chicago Coliseum. The Black Hawks won their first game 4–1, in front of a crowd of over 7,000. The Hawks' first season was a moderate success; they finished the season in third place with a record of 19–22–3. However, they lost the 1927 first-round playoff series to the Boston Bruins.
Following the series, McLaughlin fired head coach Pete Muldoon. According to Jim Coleman, sportswriter for the Toronto-based The Globe and Mail, McLaughlin felt the Hawks were good enough to finish first. Muldoon disagreed, and in a fit of pique, McLaughlin fired him. According to Coleman, Muldoon responded by yelling, "Fire me, Major, and you'll never finish first. I'll put a curse on this team that will hoodoo it until the end of time." The Curse of Muldoon was born – although Coleman admitted years after the fact that he had fabricated the whole incident – and became one of the first widely-known sports "curses." While the team would go on to win three Stanley Cups in its first 39 years of existence, it did so without ever having finished in first place, either in a single- or multi-division format. The Black Hawks proceeded to have the worst record in the league in 1927–28, winning only seven of 44 games.
For the 1928–29 season, the Black Hawks were originally slated to play in the new Chicago Stadium, but due to construction delays and a dispute between McLaughlin and Chicago Stadium promoter Paddy Harmon, they instead divided their time between the Coliseum, the Detroit Olympia, and the Peace Bridge Arena in Fort Erie, Ontario. They moved to Chicago Stadium the following season.
In 1938, the Black Hawks had a record of 14–25–9, almost missing the playoffs. They stunned the Canadiens and New York Americans on overtime goals in the deciding games of both semi-final series, advancing to the 1938 Stanley Cup Finals against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Black Hawks goaltender Mike Karakas was injured and could not play, forcing a desperate Chicago team to pull minor-leaguer Alfie Moore out of a Toronto bar and onto the ice. Moore played one game and won it. Toronto refused to let Moore play the next, so Chicago used Paul Goodman in Game 2 and lost. However, for the third and fourth games, Karakas was fitted with a special skate to protect his injured toe, and the team won both games. It was too late for Toronto, as the Hawks won their second championship. As of 2019, the 1938 Black Hawks possess the poorest regular-season record of any Stanley Cup champion.
The Black Hawks next returned to the Finals in 1944 behind Doug Bentley's 38 goals, with Bentley's linemate Clint Smith leading the team in assists. After upsetting the Red Wings in the semi-finals, they were promptly dispatched by the dominant Canadiens in four games.
The Norris era (1944–1966)
Owner and founder Frederic McLaughlin died in December 1944. His estate sold the team to a syndicate headed by long-time team president Bill Tobin. However, Tobin was only a puppet for James E. Norris, who owned the rival Detroit Red Wings. Norris had also been the Black Hawks' landlord since his 1936 purchase of Chicago Stadium. For the next eight years, the Norris-Tobin ownership, as a rule, paid almost no attention to the Black Hawks. Nearly every trade made between Detroit and Chicago ended up being Red Wing heists. As a result, for the next several years, Chicago was the model of futility in the NHL. Between 1945 and 1958, they only made the playoffs twice.
Upon Norris' death, his eldest son, James D. Norris, and Red Wings minority owner Arthur Wirtz (the senior Norris' original partner in buying the Red Wings 23 years earlier) took over the floundering club. They guided it through financial reverses, and rebuilt the team from there. One of their first moves was to hire former Detroit coach and general manager Tommy Ivan as general manager.
In the late 1950s, the Hawks struck gold, acquiring three young prospects (forwards Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita and defenseman Pierre Pilote), as well as obtaining both star goaltender Glenn Hall and veteran forward Ted Lindsay (who had just had a career season with 30 goals and 55 assists) from Detroit. Hull, Mikita, Pilote and Hall became preeminent stars in Chicago, and all four would eventually be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
After two first-round exits at the hands of the eventual champions from Montreal in 1959 and 1960, it was expected the Canadiens would once again defeat the Hawks when they met in the semi-finals in 1961. A defensive plan that completely wore down Montreal's superstars worked, however, as Chicago won the series in six games. They then bested the Wings to win their third Stanley Cup championship.
The Hawks made the Cup Finals twice more in the 1960s, losing to the Leafs in 1962 and the Canadiens in 1965. They remained a force to be reckoned with throughout the decade, with Hull enjoying four 50-goal seasons, Mikita winning back-to-back scoring titles and MVP accolades, Pilote winning three consecutive Norris Trophies, and Hall being named the First or Second All-Star goaltender eight out of nine seasons. Hull and Mikita especially were widely regarded as the most feared one-two punch in the league. However, despite a strong supporting cast which included Bill Hay, Ken Wharram, Phil Esposito, Moose Vasko, Doug Mohns and Pat Stapleton, the Hawks never quite put it all together.
In 1966–67, the last season of the six-team NHL, the Black Hawks finished first, breaking the supposed "Curse of Muldoon", 23 years after the death of Frederic McLaughlin. However, they lost in the semi-finals to Toronto, who went on to win their last Stanley Cup to date. Afterward, Coleman, who first printed the story of the curse in 1943, admitted that he made the story up to break a writer's block he had as a column deadline approached.
The Arthur Wirtz era (1966–1983)
James D. Norris died in 1966. One of his last moves in the NHL was to arrange an expansion franchise in St. Louis, where he owned the St. Louis Arena. Tobin died in 1963, a club vice-president until his death. Ownership now passed to Norris' longtime partner, Arthur Wirtz, and his son Bill Wirtz. The Wirtz–Norris partnership dated over three decades; Arthur Wirtz had been a minority partner in the syndicate the senior Norris put together to buy the Red Wings in 1932.
Goaltender Glenn Hall was drafted by the expansion St. Louis Blues for the 1967–68 season, while Pierre Pilote was traded to the Maple Leafs in exchange for Jim Pappin in 1968. In the 1968–69 season, despite Bobby Hull breaking his own previous record of 54 goals in a season with 58, the Black Hawks missed the playoffs for the first time since 1958, and the last time before 1997–98.
In 1967, the Black Hawks made a trade with the Boston Bruins that turned out to be one of the most one-sided in the history of the sport. Chicago sent young forwards Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield to Boston in exchange for Pit Martin, Jack Norris and Gilles Marotte. While Martin would star for the Hawks for many seasons, Esposito, Hodge and Stanfield would lead the Bruins to the top of the NHL for several years and capture two Stanley Cups. In Boston, Esposito set numerous scoring records en route to a career as one of the NHL's all-time greats.
Nonetheless, in the 1970–71 season, life was made easier for Chicago, as in an attempt to better balance the divisions, the expansion Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks were both placed in the East Division while the Hawks moved into the West Division. They became the class of the West overnight, rampaging to a 46–17–15 record and an easy first-place finish. With second-year goalie Tony Esposito (Phil's younger brother and winner of the Calder Memorial Trophy for Rookie of the Year the previous season), Hull, his younger brother Dennis, Mikita and sterling defensemen Stapleton, Keith Magnuson and Bill White, the Hawks reached the Stanley Cup Final, losing to the Canadiens.
A critical blow to the franchise came in 1972–73, though, with the start of the World Hockey Association (WHA). Long dissatisfied with how little he was paid as the NHL's marquee star, Bobby Hull jumped to the upstart Winnipeg Jets for a million-dollar contract. Former Philadelphia Flyers star Andre Lacroix, who received very little ice time in his single season in Chicago, joined Hull, and the pair became two of the WHA's great stars. However, the Hawks repeated their appearance in the Stanley Cup Final that year, again losing to Montreal. Stapleton also left for the WHA after that year, depleting the team further.
While the team led or was second in the West Division for four straight seasons, for the rest of the 1970s, the Black Hawks made the playoffs each year—winning seven division championships in the decade in all—but were never a successful Stanley Cup contender, losing 16-straight playoff games at one point. The team acquired legendary blueliner 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, having played only 26 games for the Hawks. Stan Mikita did the same the following year after playing 22 years in Chicago, the third-longest career for a single team in league history.
By 1982, the Black Hawks squeaked into the playoffs as the fourth seed in the Norris Division (at the time the top four teams in each division automatically made the playoffs), and were one of the NHL's Cinderella teams 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, who made the Stanley Cup Finals. Chicago proved they were no fluke the next season, also making the third round before losing to the eventual runner-up Edmonton Oilers. After an off-year in 1984, the Hawks again faced a now fresh-off-a-ring Edmonton offensive juggernaut of a team and lost in the third round in 1985.
The Bill Wirtz era (1983–2007)
In 1983, Arthur Wirtz died and the club came under the sole control of his son Bill Wirtz. Although the Black Hawks continued to make the playoffs each season, the club began a slow decline, punctuated with an appearance in the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals.
During the 1985 playoff series against Edmonton, the Black Hawks and their fans started a tradition of cheering during the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner".
Moreover, prior to the 1986–87 season, while going through the team's records, someone discovered the team's original NHL contract and found that the name "Blackhawks" was printed as a compound word as opposed to two separate words, "Black Hawks", which was the way most sources had been printing it for 60 years and as the team had always officially listed it. The name officially became "Chicago Blackhawks" from that point on.
In the late 1980s, Chicago still made the playoffs on an annual basis but made early-round exits each time.
In 1988–89, after three-straight first-round defeats, and despite a fourth-place finish in their division in the regular season, Chicago made it to the Conference Final in the rookie seasons of both goalie Ed Belfour and center Jeremy Roenick. However, once again they would fail to make the Stanley Cup Final, losing to the eventual champions 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 eventual champion Oilers, despite 1970s Soviet star goaltender Vladislav Tretiak coming to Chicago to become the Blackhawks' goaltender coach.
In 1990–91, Chicago was poised to fare even better in the playoffs, winning the Presidents' Trophy for best regular-season record, but the Minnesota North Stars stunned them in six games in the first round en route to an improbable Stanley Cup Final appearance.
In 1991–92 the Blackhawks – with Roenick scoring 53 goals, Steve Larmer scoring 29 goals, Chris Chelios (acquired from Montreal two years previously) on defense, and Belfour in goal – finally reached the Final after 19 years out of such status. The Blackhawks won 11 consecutive playoff games that year, which set an NHL record. However, they were swept four games to none by the Mario Lemieux-led defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins (who, in sweeping the Blackhawks, tied the record Chicago had set only days before). Although the 4–0 sweep indicates Pittsburgh's dominance in games won, it was actually a close series that could have gone either way. Game 1 saw the Blackhawks squander leads of 3–0 and 4–1, and would eventually be beaten 5–4 after a Lemieux power-play goal with 9 seconds remaining in regulation. The Blackhawks most lackluster game was game two, losing 3–1. A frustrating loss of 1–0 followed in game three, and a natural hat trick from Dirk Graham and stellar play from Dominik Hasek (who showed indications of the goaltender he would later become) could not secure a win in game four, which ended in a 6–5 final in favor of Pittsburgh. The defending NBA champion Chicago Bulls were in their finals in 1992, but won their championship in six. This was the only year the city of Chicago would host a concurrent NBA/NHL finals in the same year, Blackhawks head coach Mike Keenan would see this again in New York when he coached the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup in 54 years in 1994.
Belfour posted a 40-win season in 1992–93 as the Hawks looked to go deep yet again, and Chelios accumulated career-high penalty time with 282 minutes in the box, but St. Louis stunned Chicago with a first-round sweep to continue Chicago's playoff losing streak.
Although they finished near .500 in 1994, the Blackhawks again qualified for the playoffs. They were eliminated by eventual Western Conference finalist Toronto, but broke their playoff losing streak at 10 games with a game three win. It wasn't enough, however, and the Blackhawks fell in six games. The 1993–94 season also marked the Blackhawks' last at the old Chicago Stadium, and the team moved into the new United Center in the lockout-shortened1995 season. Bernie Nicholls and Joe Murphy both scored 20 goals over 48 games, and Chicago once again made it to the Western Conference Final, losing to the rival Detroit Red Wings. Also in 1994, management fired Wayne Messmer, popular singer of "The Star-Spangled Banner".
Roenick, Belfour and Chelios were all traded away as the Blackhawks faltered through the late 1990s until they missed the playoffs by five points in 1998 for the first time in 29 years, one season short of tying the Boston Bruins' record for the longest such streak in North American professional sports history. Chicago would also miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season in 1999, and missed the playoffs again in 2000 and 2001.
The millennium started with disappointment for the Blackhawks. Éric Daze, Alexei Zhamnov and Tony Amonte emerged as some of the team's leading stars by this time. However, aside from a quick first-round exit in 2002 (where they lost to the St. Louis Blues in five games after winning Game 1 of the series), the Hawks were consistently out of the playoffs from the 1997–98 season until the 2008–09 season, in most years finishing well out of contention, despite finishing in third place in the Central Division six times. Amonte left for the Phoenix Coyotes in the summer of 2002.
During the 2002–03 season, the Blackhawks finished third in the Central Division with 79 points, but would finish ninth in the Western Conference, which would make them miss the playoffs by 13 points.
A somber note was struck in February 2004 when ESPN named the Blackhawks the worst franchise in professional sports. Indeed, the Blackhawks were viewed with much indifference by Chicagoans for much of the 1990s and early 2000s due to anger over several policies instituted by then-owner Bill Wirtz, who was derisively known as "Dollar Bill". For example, Wirtz did not allow home games to be televised in the Chicago area, claiming it was unfair to the team's season ticket holders. He also raised ticket prices to an average of $50, among the most expensive in the NHL. The Chicago Wolves, an American Hockey League (AHL) team based in Rosemont, Illinois, mocked the Blackhawks' struggle by creating a marketing slogan, "We Play Hockey The Old-Fashioned Way: We Actually Win."
Following the lockout of the 2004–05 season, new general manager Dale Tallon set about restructuring the team in the hopes of making a playoff run. Tallon made several moves in the summer of 2005, most notably the signing of Tampa Bay Lightning Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin and All-Star defenseman Adrian Aucoin. However, injuries plagued Khabibulin and Aucoin, among others, and the Blackhawks again finished well out of the playoffs with a 26–43–13 record – next-to-last in the Western Conference, and the second-worst in the NHL.
The Blackhawks reached another low point on May 16, 2006, when they announced that popular TV/radio play-by-play announcer Pat Foley was not going to be brought back after 25 years with the team, a move unpopular amongst most Blackhawks fans. Foley then became the television/radio voice of the Chicago Wolves.
The Blackhawks were eager to make a splash in the free-agent market and offered big money to many of the top free agents. However, they were denied, only being able to acquire two backup goaltenders in Patrick Lalime and Sebastien Caron. Chicago was one of the biggest buyers in the trade market, acquiring a future franchise player in left-wingerMartin Havlat, as well as centerBryan Smolinski from the Ottawa Senators in a three-way trade that also involved the San Jose Sharks. The Hawks dealt forward Mark Bell to the Sharks, Michal Barinka and a 2008 second-round draft pick to the Senators, while Ottawa also received defenseman Tom Preissing and center Josh Hennessy from San Jose. Havlat gave the Blackhawks the talented, first-line caliber game breaker they so desperately needed. The Havlat trade was soon followed by another major trade – winger and key Blackhawk player Kyle Calder was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for grinding defensive center Michal Handzus. The move caused a stir in Chicago; Calder had won an increase in his contract through arbitration, which was accepted by the Hawks, but rather than ink their leading scorer, the Blackhawks decided to address their need for a proven center by acquiring Handzus. Injuries to both Havlat and Handzus hurt the Blackhawks, and Smolinski was eventually traded at the trade deadline to the Vancouver Canucks. On November 26, 2006, Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon fired head coach Trent Yawney and appointed assistant coach Denis Savard as the head coach. Savard had been the assistant coach of the Blackhawks since 1997, the year after he retired as one of the most popular and successful Blackhawks players of all time. The Blackhawks continued to struggle, and finished last in the Central Division, 12 points out of the playoffs.
They finished with the fourth worst record in the NHL, and in the Draft Lottery, won the opportunity to select first overall in the draft. The team had never had a draft pick higher than third overall before, and used the pick to draft right wing Patrick Kane from the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
The Rocky Wirtz era (2007–present)
On September 26, 2007, Bill Wirtz, the longtime owner of the Blackhawks, died after a brief battle with cancer. He was succeeded by his son, Rocky, who drastically altered his father's long-standing policies.
Midway into the 2007–08 NHL season, the franchise experimented with a partnership with Comcast SportsNet Chicago and WGN-TV by airing selected Blackhawks home games on television. During the next season, Comcast and WGN began airing all of the team's regular season games. Rocky also named John McDonough, formerly the president of Major League Baseball's Chicago Cubs, as the franchise's new president. Since taking over the position, McDonough has been an instrumental figure in the Blackhawks current marketing success. Wirtz was also able to bring back former Blackhawks greats Tony Esposito, Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull as the franchise's "hockey ambassadors".
Jonathan Toews during the 2008–09 season. Named captain before the season started, he became the youngest player to captain the Hawks at age 20.
In addition to the changes in the team's policies and front office, the younger Wirtz also made a concerted effort to rebuild the team. The Blackhawks roster was bolstered by the addition of Patrick Kane, the first overall selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, who led all rookies in points. Kane and Jonathan Toews were finalists for the Calder Memorial Trophy, awarded to the NHL's best rookie. Kane ultimately beat his teammate for the award. Kane finished the 2007–08 season with 21 goals and 51 assists in 82 games. The Blackhawks finished with a record of 40–34–8, missing the playoffs by three points. The 2007–08 season marked the first time in six years that the team finished above .500.
Prior to the 2008–09 season opener, the Blackhawks named Toews, at 20 years and 79 days, as the new captain, succeeding the traded Lapointe and making him the third-youngest captain at the time of appointment. In addition to a new captain, the Blackhawks made several major roster changes before the 2008–09 NHL season. The team traded Tuomo Ruutu, their longest tenured player, to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for forward Andrew Ladd on February 26, 2008. Later that day, the Blackhawks traded captain Martin Lapointe to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. On the first day of free agency, July 1, the team signed goaltender Cristobal Huet to a four-year, US$22.5 million contract, and later signed defenseman Brian Campbell to an eight-year, $56.8 million contract. The team also added former coaches Joel Quenneville and Scotty Bowman to their organization.
On February 13, 2008, the Blackhawks announced they would hold their first fan convention. On July 16, 2008, the team announced that they would host the 2009 NHL Winter Classic on a temporary ice rink at Wrigley Field on New Year's Day against fellow "Original Six" members, the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings defeated Chicago 6–4. On June 16, Pat Foley returned as the Blackhawks' TV play-by-play man, replacing Dan Kelly. Foley called Blackhawks games from 1981 to 2006 and spent the next two years broadcasting for the Chicago Wolves. Foley was partnered with Eddie Olczyk to broadcast all of the Blackhawks' games. On October 16, 2008, the Blackhawks relieved Denis Savard of his head coaching duties and replaced him with Joel Quenneville. Savard has since been brought back to the organization as an ambassador.
The Blackhawks finished the 2008–09 regular season in second place in their division with a record of 46–24–12, putting them in fourth place in the Western Conference with 104 points. The Blackhawks clinched a playoff berth for the first time since the 2001–02 season with a 3–1 win over Nashville on April 3. On April 8, with a shootout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Blackhawks clinched their first 100-point season in 17 years. The Blackhawks defeated the fifth-seeded Calgary Flames in six games to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals for the first time since 1996. The team proceeded to defeat the third-seeded Vancouver Canucks in six games. The Blackhawks played the then-Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings for the Western Conference Championship, losing the series in five games.
During the 2008–09 season, the team led the NHL in home attendance with a total of 912,155 spectators, averaging 22,247 per game. This figure includes the 40,818 fans from the Winter Classic at Wrigley Field. Therefore, the total attendance for games hosted at the United Center is 871,337, good for an average of 21,783 which still led the NHL over Montreal's 21,273 average. The Blackhawks welcomed their one millionth fan of the season at the United Center before Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals on May 11, 2009.
Prior to the 2009–10 NHL season, the Blackhawks made another major free agent purchase, signing Marian Hossa to a 12-year, US$62.8 million contract. The team also acquired Tomas Kopecky, John Madden and Richard Petiot. In early July, general manager Dale Tallon and the Blackhawks management came under fire when the National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) claimed the team did not submit offers to their restricted free agents before the deadline. In the worst-case scenario, the team's unsigned restricted free agents at the time, including Calder Memorial Trophy finalist Kris Versteeg, would have become unrestricted free agents. Despite the ordeal, the Blackhawks were able to sign Versteeg and all of their restricted free agents before the NHLPA could take further action. On July 14, 2009, the Blackhawks demoted Tallon to the position of senior adviser. Stan Bowman, son of Scotty Bowman, was promoted to general manager. The Blackhawks continued to sell-out games, with the best average attendance of 21,356 over Montreal's 21,273 in the NHL, and had a total of 854,267, excluding the playoffs. The Blackhawks reached the one million mark in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks.
The Blackhawks re-signed Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to contract extensions worth $31.5 million over five years, and Duncan Keith to a 13-year extension worth $72 million on December 1, 2009. On April 6, 2010, the Hawks won their 50th game of the 2009–10 season against the Dallas Stars, setting a new franchise record for wins in a season. The next night, April 7, the Hawks notched their 109th point of the season against the St. Louis Blues, setting another franchise record.
The Blackhawks made the playoffs for the second consecutive season with a regular-season record of 52–22–8. They defeated the Nashville Predators in six games in the first round, before defeating the third-seeded Vancouver Canucks for the second straight year, again in six games. The Blackhawks then swept the top-seeded San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Finals. The team advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1992, where they played the Philadelphia Flyers. The Blackhawks prevailed in six games to secure their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history. The victory also ended the team's 49-year championship drought.
Amidst the roster turnaround, the Blackhawks finished the season with a 44–29–9 record and placed third in the Central Division and eighth in the Western Conference. The team's playoff fate was determined on the final day of the regular season. The Blackhawks lost their regular season finale to the Detroit Red Wings, but received the final seed in the Western Conference after the Minnesota Wild defeated the Dallas Stars. In the first round of the 2011 playoffs, the Blackhawks faced the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks, which marked the third consecutive post-season the two teams faced each other. The Canucks built a three-game lead in the series before the Blackhawks were able to win three games in a row.Alex Burrows won Game 7 for the Canucks in overtime, 2–1.
The Blackhawks placed fourth in the Central Division with a 45–26–11 record and qualified for the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season. They faced the Phoenix Coyotes in the opening round, who eliminated the Blackhawks in six games. The series saw five of the six games going to overtime, with Bryan Bickell (Game 2) and Jonathan Toews (Game 5) scoring the only Blackhawk overtime winners of the series.
2012–13: Presidents' Trophy and fifth Stanley Cup
The Blackhawks started the lockout-shortened2012–13 season with much success by establishing several new franchise and NHL records. On January 27, 2013, the Blackhawks set a new franchise record for starting the season 6–0–0 after a win against the Detroit Red Wings. On February 19, the Blackhawks tied the NHL record previously set by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2006–07 season for earning points in the first 16 consecutive games of a season, and beat the Ducks record (28 points) by one point. On March 6, the Blackhawks extended the NHL record to 24 games with a record of 21–0–3, and the franchise record for most consecutive wins to 11 games. However, the Blackhawks lost 6–2 to the Colorado Avalanche on March 8. It was their first loss in regulation and ended their 24-game streak in which they earned at least one point, an NHL record to start a season. The point streak was the third-longest in NHL history.
The 2013 Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks meet President Obama at the White House.
The United Center also recorded its 200th consecutive combined regular season and playoff Blackhawks sell-out on March 1 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, which began during the 2007–08 season with the game on March 30, 2008, against the Blue Jackets. The Blackhawks won the 2012–13 Presidents' Trophy for the best regular season record in the NHL and clinched home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. After dispatching the Minnesota Wild in the first round, the Blackhawks faced the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Semifinals. The Blackhawks won the series opener but lost the next three games and faced elimination. However, the Blackhawks clawed back into the series, eventually winning the series on a goal by Brent Seabrook in overtime of Game 7. The team then defeated the Los Angeles Kings in five games to secure a second Stanley Cup Final appearance in four seasons.
The Blackhawks faced the Boston Bruins, another Original Six team, in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals. It was the first time since 1979 that two Original Six teams had made the Stanley Cup Finals and the first time since 1945 that the last four teams to win the Stanley Cup were in the Conference Finals. The Bruins made their second appearance in the Finals in three years (winning in 2011) and were making a similar resurgence as the Blackhawks. On June 24, the Blackhawks defeated the Bruins in the sixth game of the series to win the Stanley Cup, having overcome a 2–1 deficit with just over a minute remaining in the game. Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scored goals with 1:16 and 0:58.3 remaining in the game, just 17 seconds apart, to win 3–2.
The Blackhawks began the 2013–14 season in hopes of becoming the first team to win consecutive Stanley Cups since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. The team was dramatically altered in the off-season to remain under the salary cap. The team traded Dave Bolland, Daniel Carcillo and Michael Frolik in exchange for future draft picks, while parting ways with Ray Emery and Viktor Stalberg. Despite these changes, the Blackhawks tallied a 28–7–7 record going into January 2014. The team played their second outdoor game in franchise history, against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field, as part of the 2014 NHL Stadium Series. The Blackhawks defeated the Penguins 5–1 in front of 62,921 fans.
The franchise recorded its 2,500th regular season win, while head coach Joel Quenneville won 693 wins as a coach, the third most in the history of the NHL. The Blackhawks finished the season with a 46–21–15 record, good for third in the Central Division. They opened the playoffs by losing two games to the St. Louis Blues. The Blackhawks surged back with four straight wins to take the series. The team then defeated the Minnesota Wild for the second consecutive year. However, the Los Angeles Kings defeated the Blackhawks in seven games and ultimately went on to win the Stanley Cup. After the season's conclusion, Duncan Keith won the James Norris Memorial Trophy for the second time in his career, and Jonathan Toews was named a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy.
The Blackhawks' roster remained largely intact following the 2013–14 season. The team signed veteran center Brad Richards and rookie goaltender Scott Darling to one-year contracts, and traded defenseman Nick Leddy to the New York Islanders in exchange for three prospects. For the first half of the season, Patrick Kane led the team in scoring and points. The Blackhawks mustered a 30–15–2 record going into the All-Star break. The Blackhawks sent six players to the All-Star Game, including Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford. The team also played in the 2015 NHL Winter Classic at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., where they lost 3–2 to the Washington Capitals.
However, in late February, Kane suffered a shoulder injury that was expected to sideline him for the remainder of the regular season and much of the playoffs. The team called-up rookie Teuvo Teravainen from the AHL and traded their first-round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft to acquire center Antoine Vermette from the Arizona Coyotes. The Blackhawks also acquired veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen from the Philadelphia Flyers for second round picks in 2015 and 2016, and Andrew Desjardins from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Ben Smith. The Blackhawks finished the season with a 48–28–6 record, placing third in their division. The team allowed the fewest goals in the NHL.
President Obama welcomes the Blackhawks to the White House for a third time to commemorate the team's 2015 Stanley Cup victory.
Kane recovered quicker than projected and was ready for the start of the playoffs. The Blackhawks dispatched the Nashville Predators in six games and swept the Minnesota Wild to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the fifth time in seven years. The top-seeded Anaheim Ducks held a 3–2 lead in the series, but the Blackhawks rallied back in the series to win games six and seven. The team then defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals to secure their third Stanley Cup in six seasons.
The Blackhawks offense was led by Patrick Kane, who scored an NHL-best 106 points in 2015–16 and also won the season's Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP. Panarin, who skated on Kane's line, won the Calder Memorial Trophy, awarded to the NHL's best first-year player. Midway through the season, the Blackhawks attempted to supplement their roster by making several trades. The Blackhawks dealt Jeremy Morin to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Richard Panik. The team then reacquired Andrew Ladd from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for their first round selection in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and Marko Dano. The team then traded Phillip Danault and their 2018 second round pick to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for forwards Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann. The team finished with a 46-26-9 record, good for 103 points and third place in their division. The Blackhawks were defeated by the St. Louis Blues in a seven-game series in the first round of the 2016 playoffs. The loss marked the Blackhawks earliest playoff exit since 2012.
Salary cap constraints forced the Blackhawks to make additional trades before the 2016–17 season. The team traded pending free-agent Andrew Shaw to Montreal in exchange for two second-round 2016 draft picks. The Blackhawks also traded Bryan Bickell and Teuvo Teravaainen to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for another 2016 second-round pick in order to free additional salary cap space. The Blackhawks signed veteran Brian Campbell and KHL stand-out Michal Kempny during free agency. The team then turned to their farm system to replenish their depth. The Blackhawks promoted rookies Ryan Hartman, Gustav Forsling, Tyler Motte, Nick Schmaltz and Vinnie Hinostroza to their starting line-up to fill the vacancies left by Shaw, Bickell and Teravainen.
Patrick Kane spearheaded the Blackhawks offense with 34 goals and 55 assists, tying for second in scoring during the regular season among all skaters. He was aided by his linemate, Panarin, who scored 31 goals and 43 assists. In addition to Kane and Panarin, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov and Richard Panik all scored at least 20 goals. Toews, Kane, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford were also selected to play in the All-Star Game. The Blackhawks finished the season with 109 points, placing first in the Central Division and earning the top-seed in the Western Conference for the 2017 playoffs. However, they were swept in the first round by the eighth-seeded Nashville Predators in one of the biggest upsets in NHL playoff history; this was the first time that an eighth seed swept a playoff series against the top team in the conference. Goaltender Pekka Rinne and the Predators' defense marginalized the Blackhawks' offense, limiting the team to only three total goals in the series, including a pair of shutouts in Game 1 (1–0) and Game 2 (5–0) at the United Center to begin the series.
The Blackhawks opened the 2017–18 season with a resounding 10–1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Blackhawks were four games above .500 with an 18–14–6 record at the end of December 2017, and only four points out of a playoff spot. However, goaltender Corey Crawford missed much of 2018 due to an upper-body injury. Inconsistent defense and goaltending, coupled with limited offense, resulted in the team falling to the bottom of the Central Division. The Blackhawks were eliminated from playoff contention on March 20, 2018, marking the first time in nine years that the team failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs. The team finished the season with a 33–39–10 record and 76 points in the standings.
The Blackhawks made modest acquisitions during the opening day of free agency by acquiring veterans Cam Ward, Chris Kunitz and Brandon Manning. The team made their biggest move of the offseason by offloading Hossa's contract onto the Arizona Coyotes by trading Vinnie Hinostroza, Jordan Oesterle and third-round draft pick in the 2019 NHL Draft in exchange for Marcus Kruger, MacKenzie Entwistle, Jordan Maletta, Andrew Campbell and a fifth-round draft pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. Quenneville named Ward the team's starting goaltender as Crawford missed the first five games of the 2018–19 season with concussion-like symptoms. The Blackhawks opened the season with a promising 6–2–2 start despite Crawford's initial absence. However, after losing their next five games, head coach Quenneville (as well as assistant coaches Kevin Dineen and Ulf Samuelsson) were fired on November 6, 2018. Jeremy Colliton, previously the head coach of the Blackhawks' AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, was named the 38th head coach in franchise history.