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Fifty years of Cup-less seasons could come to an end tonight when the Blackhawks take on the Flyers in game six on the road in Philadelphia. And if you've an eye for stats precedent, you may think the odds for clinching tonight look very, very good.
Consider Chicago's on-the-road championship clinching record. The Bulls? Won half of their championships on the road. The '85 Bears Super Bowl? Won in New Orleans. The '61 Blackhawks -- they won on the road in Detroit. Even the '08 World Series won by the Cubs was won ... on the road.
And the sixth game is a lucky one, too. Five of the Bulls championships were won in game six. And the Blackhawks won two of the last three playoffs series -- against the Predators and the Canucks -- in six games.
Amateur numerology aside, the 'Hawks players are ready to end it this evening.
"You want to take care of business when you can," said center John Madden. "We gotta be focused on the opportunity. Treat it like it's an elimination game."
Madden's sentiment was echoed by owner Rocky Wirtz, who spoke to NBC Chicago from rinkside at the Wachovia Center.
"He'd say get it over with tonight!" said Wirtz, referring to his late father. "Just forget the seventh game income and get the cup home."
Wirtz, who just hopped off a charter flight from Chicago, thanked the fans and said he was nervous and couldn't wait for the puck to drop.
"No, I don't want to get that far ahead of myself," Wirtz said, refusing to predict a clinch. "Y'know, last year what happened to Detroit, they were up two games and lost. I don't want to get ahead of myself."
Fans Cautiously Optimistic
Across Chicago, fans gathered with cautious optimism as the puck dropped in game six.
At Joe's Sports Bar, on Weed Street, the beer was stocked, preparations made and the staff doubled to handle the roughly 600 fans crowded inside. Fans started lining up hours before the game, hoping to snag a good seat in front of one of the bar's 100 TVs.
Despite the fact that a win Wednesday would be on the road, most Hawks fans said they'll take it. They don't even want to see a game seven.
"They've got to win tonight, for sure. We can welcome them home with a big parade but we've got to win tonight," one fan said.
It's one thing to be in your favorite seat or at your favorite bar watching the game, but it's another to take in the game in the same room as the highest-scoring left wing in NHL history. But that's what a reservation-only crowd at Harry Caray's at Navy Pier is experiencing.
Bobby Hull entered a packed house and spent some time signing autographs before the start of what he hoped was the final game of the series.
"I am very nervous because I hate seventh games and that's why I want them to take it tonight. I've been in seventh games. We've been bridesmaids and never the brides too many times," he said.
"Chicago is kind of -- we're used to losing too much," said Harry Caray's President Grant Deporter. "The way the Hawks are winning, I think everyone really does have the belief that this could be the year for the Hawks. I mean, they are the Cubs of hockey. They have the longest drought -- I mean, 49 years is the longest any hockey team has."
The fact that the game was in Philadelphia didn't stop fans from packing establishments near the United Center. A full house was at the Union Park Lounge, at Racine Avenue and Jackson Boulevard, waving small Stanley Cup Finals towels and cheering loudly in a sense of camaraderie that Chicago hasn't seen in a long time.
"After rooting for so many years, finally we're going to get the cup tonight," said bar owner Aaron Bilgen, who worked for Blackhawks Owner Rocky Wirtz for seven years.
The United Center itself was absent of fans, but many of the bars along Madison Street, including Crossroads, Third Rail and Beer Bistro were full hours before the game.
Should the Hawks hoist the Stanley Cup Wednesday night, fans promised to march to the United Center for celebrations.
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