The question of whether the Blackhawks are a dynasty will be answered when the question no longer needs to be asked. Here's what we know. It's close enough for Chicago.
Around here a four-game winning streak can cause hyperventilating in the bleachers. Eyes mist and hearts flutter thumbing through 30-year-old scrapbooks. Continuity is a coaching change.
And now we have the Hawks, doing what we knew they would, doing what they said they would, and, more than likely, ready to do it again.
Four sounds better than three. Sure it does, and it is easy to make that promise while being adored at a victory revel with all the mementos of glory lined up on display, Soldier Field awash in red, amid the music and the confetti.
Dynasty does not invite doubt. So, going by that definition, sure the Hawks are just that. "Wait till next year," is the perpetual Chicago shout. The Hawks have made it "Can't wait till next year." Of course, this being hockey we won't have to. The Hawks will be at it again before the calendar runs out.
One championship is a souvenir. Two is a set. Three is an inventory.
This third Stanley Cup ought to be just a little larger than the other two, or come with distinctive dents, something to mark the effort it took to get it, a season of commitment followed by a playoffs of challenge.
Dynasty is a mixed mission weighed down by duty, conviction loaded by expectation, more an obligation than an adventure. Having just been through it, the Hawks ought to know it only gets harder.
While this one does not have the fresh joy of a first kiss, as the first championship did, nor the validation of the second, it has the special merit of a promise kept. And it raises the bar higher, makes whatever fall farther.
Hockey's clunky, shiny hardware still must have Jonathan Toews' original fingerprints on it, as well as his lip prints. Kissing the Cup may be a hockey tradition, but after a while it kind of looks like licking a mirror.
What we know is this spring's most stirring show is over, the flying, grunting, check-eating Patrick Kane and his merry band of skaters, the rent-a-winners, Antoine Vermette and Kimmo Timonen, the ancient and ardent Timonen telling time and pain to kiss off, Joel Quenneville, the weathered coach, reaffirming he's among the best ever to shuffle a shift, Duncan Keith getting his due and Niklas Hjalmarsson getting Keith's leftover light.
This was the generally underappreciated goalie Corey Crawford at full command, with a capeful of room for friends and doubters. This was Marian Hossa's leap over the ramparts — men, lead, follow or stay in the car.
It is only ice hockey, a game handicapped by geography and central heating, and yet it can surprise and be more. For at least a brief moment it is the prompter of tolerance and goodwill. Everyone is a neighbor of a winner. Jewelry belongs to the warriors; hardware to the landlords; the memories to the rest of us.
Stan Bowman, the clerk in charge of all the pieces, made not a bad move nor misjudged a single player. Rocky Wirtz, the step-ahead proprietor of the team, finds himself owning a trio of prizes that just needed what he had to give.
When the game clock gave permission for the Hawks to dance and to hug and to turn the United Center into a cruise carnival Monday night, while the Lightning players patiently waited to wish the Hawks well, hockey's traditional if not always heartfelt gesture, the accusation of being a dynasty was spilling out of the mouth of the commissioner and onto magazine covers. There are worse curses.
The Hawks may always be Chicago's oddball sports team, playing an untraditional game with a ball the size of a pea, and yet these Hawks have managed to cross borders and generations and cultures, neighborhoods and schemes. They have brought a shared joy and a common memory.
Imagine hockey doing such a thing.
Bernie Lincicome is a special contributor to the Chicago Tribune.