We all knew it was coming.
No matter how the move was made, no matter how much sense it makes from a salary cap perspective, any time a player with a tenure as long and as successful as Patrick Sharp’s in Chicago is ended, the disappointment is going to linger for more than just a night.
Let me take you back to my first memory of Patrick Sharp as a Blackhawks: April 5, 2007.
The Blackhawks were approaching the end of yet another forgetful season, toiling near the NHL’s basement for what seemed like the 20th season in a row — memories of a brief playoff appearance in 2002 were long gone.
In the final home game of the regular season, the Hawks were hosting the rival Detroit Red Wings, who again were ruling the Central Division. The game stories from that night detail the 56 saves made by Chicago netminder Nikolai Khabibulin in a 3-2 shootout victory for Chicago.
But it was in that shootout that Sharp made an indelible mark in my mind. In the fourth round of the shootout (which is still a dumb way to end a hockey game) Jiri Hudler went first and was stopped by Khabi.
I’d bought some tickets for that night’s game — likely for less than it costs to park at the UC these days — because even when the Hawks were terrible, there was still a charged atmosphere whenever Detroit came to town. Red Wings fans always outnumbered Hawks fans in the crowd (which was the case every time Detroit played in Chicago in the lean years), but it was the Hawks fans who were making all the noise as Sharp skated in and buried one past Chris Osgood for the winner. For one night, us Hawks fans had something to cheer. And it was a rare chance to have a positive memory to take into the offseason (though Detroit throttled the Hawks 7-2 at the Joe two nights later). And Sharp gave us that reason.
In fact, for the first year-and-a-half that he was around, Sharp was one of the few exciting things to watch in Chicago (when Marty Havlat wasn’t hurt, which was rare).
Toews and Kane would make their debut in the following season, and things have never felt as bleak around here as they did when Sharp first arrived.
And I think that’s a significant part of what I’ll always remember about Sharp. Yeah, it was guys like Toews and Kane that were the main drivers of this incredible run. But Sharp (along with Keith and Seabrook) was was here before that.
He was here when the UC was more of a mausoleum than a madhouse.
He was here when the Blackhawks home games weren’t available on local television.
He was here when you couldn’t read about the Hawks in the media or find any Hawks apparel in stores.
He was a reminder of how very high the Hawks have risen from how very low they used to dwell. And I imagine few guys have appreciated these three Stanley Cups more than Sharp, because of those early beginnings in Chicago.
While that’s my first memory of Sharp in Chicago, it’s not my favorite. That one comes Game 5 of the Hawks first Cup victory. With the Hawks up 5-3 in the third, Sharp sealed the game with an unstoppable laser of a wrist shot. Brian Boucher barely even moved — not like he was going to stop it anyway. It felt like a Stanley Cup was inevitable after that goal.
Those two memories aren’t alone. There was also the game-tying goal late in the series with the Coyotes. There was his 4-point game against the Canucks in the 2010 playoffs. There was his breakaway goal against the Blues in Game 6 of the 2014 playoffs.
We could probably list these all day (and feel free to add yours in the comments).
Patrick Sharp was a great, great Chicago Blackhawk. I’ll miss him. You’ll miss him. His teammates will miss him (no matter what some shitty website claims about him). The whole city will miss him.