In 10 Words or Less
A look back at the Blackhawks' revival
Loves: Hockey, New York Islanders
Likes: Seeing the Flyers lose
Dislikes: Bandwagon Fans/Cities
Hates: New York Rangers
Each NHL season that ends with my Islanders out of playoff contention, of which there have been far too many of late, leaves me with a choice and a fear. First, I have to pick a team to pull for, and then, hope one of the teams I dislike or hate wins the Stanley Cup. Maybe there's something wrong with me mentally, but the list of teams I hope fail is very long, which doesn't leave me many options in my search for a squad to root for. Normally I'll look for a team with a former Islander but this past year, I went with a team that I hope the Islanders become: the Chicago Blackhawks. I chose...wisely.
Like my Islanders, the Blackhawks suffered for a long time under bad ownership, but it's hard to say we had it as bad as what Chicago experienced with "Dollar" Bill Wirtz, who pinched pennies in a big city and went so far as to keep the team's games off local TV, alienating a generation of fans who watched from a distance as the team struggled on the ice. It was so bad, that when a moment of silence was held following his death, it was booed. But with Wirtz' passing, a new owner took over, his son Rocky, and everything changed. Investments were made in the team, locking up young stars like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, while importing big-ticket vets like Marian Hossa, building a winner that Chicago could finally watch, as the games returned to the airwaves. In the end, Wirtz's turnaround of the team paid off with a Stanley Cup, the first in the Windy City since 1961.
This DVD traces the path the team took from their loss in the Western Conference final in 2009, their off-season moves, through the regular season and into the play-offs, and ending with the celebratory parade in Chicago (there's not a lot of drama on a sports highlights DVD.) Along with the tale of their march to glory, the disc highlights the individual contributions of several players, including Kane and Towes, big-man Dustin Byfuglien, gritty Adam Burish and Dave Bolland and goaltender Antii Niemi, as well as defenseman Duncan Keith, who sacrificed a lot, including many of his teeth, to win the Cup. The team ran into some salary-cap issues, so several of the players profiled and interviewed were quickly jettisoned via trades, making this a bittersweet experience for Hawks fans.
The game footage for the on-ice action is part of the appeal of this DVD, especially for non-Chicago fans, as it mixes the traditional TV angles with super-close ice-level views reminiscent of NFL Films' best work. It's a point of view you don't frequently see in hockey and one that pumps up the impact of the big goals and important moments. The whole point of these highlight videos, in addition to serving as an archive, is to give more of the story than seen on game broadcasts, which this disc does well. Besides the unique angles on the games, you get to see behind the scenes, as the players travel and relax between games (playing Mario Kart) and celebrate in the end. The interviews with the rather gregarious players, as well as the staff and the media following the team, helps round out the picture of a legitimate team of destiny that knew, because of the salary cap, they only really had one shot to win it all.
A one-disc release, this DVD features an animated, anamorphic widescreen main menu, with options to watch the special, select chapters and check out the extras. There are no audio options, no subtitles and no closed captioning.
The anamorphic-widescreen transfer on this special looks excellent, displaying the different video sources well, especially the film stock, which looks very sharp and vividly colorful. Some of the TV footage pales a touch by comparison, but not to the point where it looks bad. There are no problems with digital artifacts, and no obvious dirt or damage.
The audio's a bit less impressive, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, but it sounds just fine, delivering the audio without any issues with distortion. It's a standard, center-balanced track, but everything comes across clear, getting the job done.
There's a decent selection of bonus footage included on this disc, starting with a pair of clips from Toews (6:49) and Kane's (7:36) draft days, which makes sense, considering their role as building blocks for the team. The Toews clip gives more of the player, as it first follows him through pre-draft hype and then having to sit through a few picks before his name was called. Kane's, on the other hand, starts at the beginning of the draft, as he was selected first overall, and includes a post-selection TV interview.
"Behind the Scene with the Stanley Cup" (4:03) is one for all hockey fans, as you get to follow the Cup and the Keeper of the Cup, as the presentation of the trophy gets near, before Game Six of the playoffs. As usual, it's all about cleaning and polishing the Cup, and then getting ready if a championship-clinching result occurs. Here, the game heads into overtime, and they have to be ready if a Cup-clinching goal is scored.
Following that presentation, a more extensive montage (3:39) of celebratory footage from the locker room is available, but it's mainly rich athletes acting like loons with champagne and cigars. It's a treasure trove for those interested in seeing skinny white guys with their shirts off though.
The longest extra is a featurette on the Chicago parade, which runs over nine minutes long, and though it has a lot of the same footage from the end of the DVD, it also includes far more of the speeches by the players, including a bizarre (and awful) rap by now-former Hawk Kris Versteeg. Maybe this is really why they traded him to Toronto.
The Bottom Line
Obviously, this DVD is going to appeal mainly to fans of the Blackhawks, giving them a chance to relive the glory days before the salary cap messed with their roster. But for hockey fans looking for a bit of ice capades in the summer months (with the exception of Predators, Canucks, Sharks and Flyers fans), here's a chance to see a genuine team effort pay off with a Stanley Cup. The DVD looks and sounds very nice, and there's some solid bonus content added to the package. While you're waiting for training camp to start, give it a look and try to picture your team hoist that trophy.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.