The slow crawl to the Chicago Blackhawks’ regular season seems less torturous with each passing day. There are 31 days left until the regular season kicks off.
As that number decreases, the excitement increases. Another shot to prove the window isn’t closed. Another chance to show that the Blackhawks can be successful. Another opportunity to give everything and finish on top.
Today we will look at a goaltender who helped the Blackhawks achieve something they hadn’t since 1961: winning a Stanley cup and ending a long, 49-season drought.
Antti Niemi sits among numerous goaltenders who have donned the No. 31 on the Blackhawks sweater, preceding Anton Forsberg currently and Antti Raanta during his time with the Blackhawks in 2014-15.
Rewind a bit further and the names become a bit more decorated. Hall of Famers Dominik Hasek and Ed Belfour have worn the No. 31 as well. Quite the sweater to fill.
Niemi may not be headed for the Hall of Fame, but he has forever etched his name in Blackhawks history as well as on the Stanley Cup itself.The 2010 Stanley Cup Final will always be a special moment for me as well as many generations of Blackhawks fans. The drought would finally end and the streets of Chicago would run red with fans in Blackhawks apparel.Niemi played a key role in bringing the Stanley Cup back to Chicago in 2010. The Blackhawks played a total of 22 games on their journey to lifting the Stanley Cup. Niemi was the starter for all of them.
Posting a .910 SV% and a 2.63 GAA, Niemi also became a champion. Who can forget that iconic OT win sending an ecstatic Patrick Kane the length of the ice towards Niemi?
While the 2009-10 season was not a career year for Niemi on paper, it is by far his best season based on the outcome. Since the 2010 season concluded, Niemi has seen six additional teams. Residing now in Montreal, he will continue to back up Carey Price. Niemi becomes a UFA once the 2018-19 season concludes.The 2010 Stanley Cup was the first for me as a Blackhawks fan. I know that I am not alone. Generations of Blackhawks fans waited, remained patient through the dark years in the early 2000s. All of the support would pay off as a result of Niemi’s net presence. He will remain, in many fans eyes, a Blackhawks legend.