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What Might Have Been

With no live sports to watch for these last seven years of stay at home quarantine, both the MLB Network and the NHL Network have been showing classic games, and series to fill the void. Recently, and coincidentally, they both showed Chicago teams on back to back days. The NHL Network showed the 2015 Blackhawks Stanley Cup final series against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the next day the MLB Network showed game seven of the 2016 World Series against Cleveland. Watching them reminded me of what might have been.

The Blackhawks Stanley Cup winning run of 2014-2015, ended an incredible stretch of them winning the championship three times in five years. We can argue about dynasties another time but there is no denying this was pretty special.

As I was watching it I was reminded of just how unbelievably good Marian Hossa was. His strength, with and without the puck, was underrated. His skating was so smooth he looked like he was not even moving, and suddenly he had chased down another player, and stole the puck from him.

He had fantastic shooting skills, with maybe the fastest release in hockey ever. He was a streaky scoring machine but was a relentless defensive player always. As Eddie Olczyk would often say, "all you young hockey players, watch how Hossa moves without the puck and is always in the right position to make plays."

Until Marian Hossa came to play for the Blackhawks, I honestly had no idea how good he was. He played most of his career in the Eastern Conference, and as a Hawks fan I watched very few of those games, so I had no idea of his skill level. Sure I had heard of him, and heard people talk about his ability, but I paid little mind. What a mistake.

The Blackhawks had to decimate their team several times because of salary cap issues, which likely cost them a couple of additional cups, but Marian Hossa getting hurt and retiring was really the death knell for this team. His not being in the line-up made everyone have to do something else, and put guys in their second, or third best spot. Had he stayed healthy, I really believe they would have won another, at least.

The 2016 World Series winning Chicago Cubs are another story of what might have been.

Baseball fans, insiders, and media all agreed that the Cubs were going to win several World Series after the 2016 season. They had skill, depth, youth, and an "it" factor that winning teams possesed. They were destined for greatness and maybe even be among the games greatest teams.

And then they laid an egg in 2017, and again in 2018, and by 2019 they weren't even in the conversation of decent teams. The fall was sudden, and shocking, and the real Cubs fans were in disbelief over what was happening to this team. A writer friend of mine, that I worked with in another life at another website, said early on in 2017, that they had no energy and no urgency. I poo-pooed him, but he was right.

The Cubs, a team with one world championship in 108 years, showed up and played like they just needed to toss their gloves on the field, and the other team would roll up and die for them. I never understood how the coaches and management could let them do that for two plus years without saying anything.

As a Cubs fan, we don't walk around puffing our chest out at all the rings our team has, I mean, one championship every 108 years is nothing to brag about. We thought we finally had something special with this group, and hoped we could finally put the hated St. Louis Cardinal fans in their place for a while.

Sadly, it didn't happen. We were back to being the little brother to the big bad Cardinals, and even worse, we now had the Brewers and the Reds getting better too. I'm still stunned at the fall of this team, and I think they will be studied, long after I'm gone, as an example of a team that can look so good, but be so average, so quickly.

So there you have my two stories of what might have been, an all too familiar refrain for Chicago sports fans. Oh well,it was fun while it lasted.

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