On Champions: From The Manor of Scrivelsby To The Madhouse On Madison
Game Sevens don’t need to be oversold.
The drama therein is intrinsic. Simply saying “It’s a Game Seven” is enough; there’s no need to gild the lily.
Stomachs in Chicago are in knots. Regrettable facial hair in Michigan is graying.
And as much as this Game Seven means to fans of the Blackhawks and Red Wings — and it means a lot to them — and as much as it’s the last great blow-off of a great rivalry, it’s also something else.
To Conference III, the Blackhawks are the Lord of the Manor of Scrivelsby and the Red Wings are traitors whose betrayal must be avenged.
Le roi est mort, vive le roi!
The coronation of a British monarch is one of the enduring ceremonies of transition in the West.
It is a convoluted process that begins with the proclamations by the Accession Council and terminates with the grand banquet. So many people and groups have a claim at participation that there is a special court to adjudicate just who and what is entitled to be the Grand Carver of England and who shall be the first commoners to proclaim their allegiance.
He rides in to the banquet astride a horse, literally throws down the gauntlet and in the stilted language of Olden Times (we’re talking, like, Michal Handzus’ third or fourth season in the NHL), challenges anyone who doubts the veracity of the monarch to battle.
If any person, of whatever degree soever, high or low, shall deny or gainsay our Sovereign Lord … to be the right heir to the imperial Crown of this realm of Great Britain and Ireland, or that he ought not to enjoy the same; here is his Champion, who saith that he lieth, and is a false traitor, being ready in person to combat with him, and in this quarrel will adventure his life against him on what day soever he shall be appointed.”
There are seven teams in Conference III. We have all, at times, suffered under the yoke of Detroit. Told to look up to them, with their Stanley Cups and their lineage that dates back even before Stan Fischler started seeking interns.
We have seen our arenas invaded and endured their endless question “How many Cups have you won? HOW MANY?”. Cephalopods have flown by our faces and Datsyuk has embarrassed our defense.
And now they want to leave. Having dallied too long among us — the lesser lights and misfits with the misfortune of living in places where ponds don’t freeze solid in September or where The Cosby Show started at 7 and not 8 — they looked with glee as Atlanta became Winnipeg and the Southeast became a geographical joke instead of simply a competitive one.
That was their opportunity to move east — retrograde to millennia of human progress, which has been a constant march west — and their tears irrigated the soil and from it blossomed this mighty oak, this Conference III.
They were to be boxed and sent, unceremoniously at regular season’s end. Their two-decade run of playoff appearances was to end as their time in the Western Confernece did — the perfect bold double bar line.
But then they made the post-season again, seizing their birthright with no appeal to the Court of Claims needed. The job of eliminating them was left, stupidly, to a Pacific team — a Disney mirage as real as the storefronts on Main Street USA, the team led by the ageless European wonder and the prematurely bald endomorph.
So it was left to you, Chicago.
You strode in like our man, Scrivelsby, never expecting a challenge. But one came, the fevered thrashings and slashings of a dying brute with just enough life to win one last battle.
You found your feet and it’s to this now.
Detroit lieth and is a false traitor.
There is no Court of Claims to enforce your right to the trophy, Chicago. And look not behind you for the Lord of Scrivelsby.
This isn’t just about you. It’s about the rest of us, too.
This year, to be The Champion, you must also be Our Champion.