By Rich Lindbloom
“When everybody trying to sleep,
I’m somewhere making my midnight creep.
Every morning the rooster crow,
Something tell me I got to go.
I’m a back door man. – Willie Dixon
Well, it’s been a bumpy ride now, hasn’t it? The road less travelled would certainly be an apt description of our seemingly alternate route to the playoffs. Whether or not it makes “all the difference” as Robert Frost claimed, remains to be seen. In an earlier piece this year, I stated the Hawks’ primary goal should be to just make the playoffs. (I was actually hoping for a lot more, but beggars can’t be choosers.) Little did I realize what an arduous process that would prove to be. Around 7pm last Sunday, in the final game of the NHL season, a Hawk nation breathed a collective sigh of relief and finally exclaimed, “Mission Accomplished.”
Actually, saying “Mission Accomplished” might be as premature as Dubya’s statement when our troops rolled into Baghdad. However, over the course of a season littered with numerous obstacles, some perhaps self inflicted, I can’t help but think, “Well done boys.” We overcame assimilating half of Rockford’s team, significant injuries, questionable coaching decisions, phantom calls and inauspicious bounces. Somewhere in a deep, dark and damp cellar In Vancouver, some tempest tossed Canuck fan is nervously muttering to himself. As he pours over all the now meaningless league leading stats the Canucks amassed this year, he breaks out in a cold sweat as visions of Big Buff resurface in his addled brain. We may not have Big Buff this year, but we do have another black man that could figure prominently into our success during the playoffs – more on that later.
Quite incredulously, many fans throughout the NHL are claiming we got into the playoffs through the backdoor, sneaking around like a Hoochie Coochie man from some juke joint in Mississippi. In my mind, we didn’t back our way into anything, we earned it. Finishing with 97 points, just two points out of fifth place is not exactly tip toeing in with your shoes in your hand trying to remember where the squeaky floor boards are. (Although it appears more than one sports writer was perched behind the back door with a rolling pin, waiting to clobber the Hawks.) In no way, shape or form did we “squeak” into the playoffs.