Today's Hawks team much different than '92 Finals club

  • Jeremy Roenick of the Blackhawks was only 22 years old when he helped the Hawks reach the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals.

    Jeremy Roenick of the Blackhawks was only 22 years old when he helped the Hawks reach the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals. Associated Press

Updated 5/28/2010 4:13 PM

Editor's note: To Blackhawks fans, Tim Sassone is the dean of hockey writers in Chicago so we asked the veteran NHL writer to share his memories of the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals Hawks team and to answer some questions concerning that club's quest for the Cup and today's Blackhawks team.

The last time the Blackhawks made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1992, the buzz around the city was nothing like it is now.


It was a big deal, of course, but Michael Jordan and the Bulls were kings then, coming off their first NBA championship and about to win their second of six against Portland.

The Hawks were on the greatest roll in Stanley Cup playoff history entering the Finals against Pittsburgh. They had won 11 games in a row after sweeps of Detroit in the second round and Edmonton in the conference finals - an NHL record that ultimately would be broken by the Penguins in the Finals.

Dirk Graham captained that 1992 team, which also featured the likes of Chris Chelios, Steve Larmer, Jeremy Roenick, Ed Belfour, Steve Smith, Michel Goulet and Brent Sutter. They didn't even win their division, finishing second in the Norris with the controversial Mike Keenan behind the bench.

Unfortunately for the Hawks, the Finals were over almost as quickly as they began. They blew a 3-0 lead in Game 1 at Pittsburgh and never recovered as the Penguins swept the series for their second straight Stanley Cup.

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Q. Do the Hawks stand a better chance to win a championship now than they did in 1992?

A. Absolutely, if for no other reason than there's no Mario Lemieux or Jaromir Jagr awaiting them this time. The Hawks also open these Finals at home, which they must use to their advantage.

Q. Was the potential of the 1992 team anything like the potential of this group to be title contenders for a long time?

A. Not really. Today's team is younger and there are more players with the potential for long and great careers. Roenick was a 22-year-old kid in '92 and Belfour was in only his second season, but the Hawks were a mostly veteran team built by Mike Keenan to win that season.

Q. What were the lasting memories of the '92 Finals?

A. The 5-4 loss in Game 1, when Lemieux scored off a faceoff in the final minute to bring the Penguins all the way back from a 3-0 deficit, was devastating.

The 3-1 loss in Game 2 was memorable for Keenan benching stars Roenick and Larmer for long stretches. Keenan then tore into his team in the dressing room afterward. Some believe Keenan lost the team that night.


Games 3 and 4 in Chicago Stadium were electrifying, but the Hawks lost 1-0 in Game 3 and 6-5 in Game 4, when Belfour was pulled and replaced by Dominik Hasek, who would go on to become a Hall of Fame goalie elsewhere.

Q. Can the atmosphere in the United Center for these Finals be what it was in the old Stadium?

A. Never, because there never will be another Chicago Stadium. But when the Hawks are rolling, the United Center rocks as well as any building in the NHL.

Q. What kind of building is the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia?

A. It can be a hostile place to play thanks to some of the most rabid and loyal fans in the NHL. They are loud and almost everyone dresses in orange.

Q. Are the Hawks bigger now in Chicago than they were in 1992?

A. Tough question, but the answer is a resounding yes. The Hawks are every bit as big, or bigger, than they were going back to the glory days of the 1960s and early '70s. It's all because of television, the Internet and 24-hour news cycles. You can watch every Hawks game now, home and away, which you couldn't as recently as four years ago.

• You can follow Tim Sassone's reports on Twitter throughout the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals @timsassone