Chicago - Three years ago, a pingpong ball took a fortuitous bounce for the Chicago Blackhawks, almost like a sliding puck, and they came out winners in a lottery that has revived the franchise.
With just little more than an 8 percent chance of winning the top pick in 2007, the Blackhawks leapfrogged the team with the worst record, and they made Patrick Kane their No. 1 choice.
Which team lost out on the top pick after enduring an NHL-worst season?
The Philadelphia Flyers.
Kane quickly became the rookie of the year, while the Flyers took James van Riemsdyk with the second pick. Now both are in the Stanley Cup finals, with Game 1 set for tonight at the United Center.
“It seems like it’s almost worked out good for both teams,” Kane said. “They’re here three years later. I’m here three years later, our team is, and that’s the most important thing for this franchise.”
The Blackhawks are searching for their first title since the days of Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita in 1961. The Flyers are looking for their first championship since the Broad Street Bullies won the second of back-to-back titles in 1975 – long before Kane or van Riemsdyk, both 21, were born.
The two played together in the world juniors and remain close. They went to dinner when the Blackhawks were in Philadelphia for their only meeting with the Flyers this season.
Kane headed right to the NHL after he was selected No. 1 and quickly emerged as a star and a scoring threat with his speed and puck-handling skills. Van Riemsdyk headed off to college first before signing with the Flyers a little more than a year ago.
The Blackhawks were playing in a half-empty arena before Kane and 22-year-old captain Jonathan Toews arrived and became the centerpieces of the team’s rebirth.
Now the Blackhawks are one of the hottest tickets in Chicago, four wins away from ending a 49-year Stanley Cup drought.
“I think that it would be ... great achievement for everybody,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think the city will go wild and crazy.”
STANLEY CUP FINALS
Philadelphia vs. Chicago
TODAY: Game 1 at Chicago, 5 p.m., Ch. 5, CBUT
Monday: Game 2 at Chicago, 5 p.m., Ch. 5, CBUT
Wednesday: Game 3 at Philadelphia, 5 p.m., Versus, CBUT
June 4: Game 4 at Phila., 5 p.m., Versus, CBUT
June 6: Game 5 at Chicago, 5 p.m., Ch. 5, CBUT*
June 9: Game 6 at Phila., 5 p.m., Ch. 5, CBUT*
June 11: Game 7 at Chicago, 5 p.m., Ch. 5, CBUT*
* if necessary