They say that heroes get remembered and legends never die. Corey Crawford became a legend when he launched several F-bombs into a crowd of millions at Grant Park in 2013. On several occasions, Crawford was the Blackhawks’ hero. Corey Crawford will surely never be forgotten and will forever be immortal in the City of Chicago.
Stan Bowman announced Thursday that the team will not be re-signing goaltender Corey Crawford. Shock and awe were sent all throughout Chicagoland. That shock was magnified on Friday night when the longtime Chicago goaltender signed with the New Jersey Devils.
For the past decade, Corey Crawford has been the steady force righting the Blackhawks ship. He was no stranger to the big stage. He was never one to fold under pressure. For Chicago, he was our guy.
In Chicago, champions end up loved forever. If you win in this city, you can’t lose the fans. Ask the 1985 Chicago Bears if that is true. Corey Crawford was the ultimate champion. He was also the ultimate Chicago icon.
Crawford was something of an underdog. After spending a large chunk of time in the minor leagues of hockey, Crawford was asked to come in and replace 2010 Stanley Cup champion Antti Niemi. No big deal.
There was always doubt surrounding Crawford. “You can’t win a Cup with Corey Crawford.” Sure thing. “He doesn’t perform when it matters.” Boy, would he prove them wrong. There’s something about an underdog.
In 2013, Corey Crawford proved the haters wrong. The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. They won the Stanley Cup with Corey Crawford. They won the Stanley Cup because of Corey Crawford. He should have won the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Here’s the thing, the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks are arguably one of the greatest hockey teams of all-time. You know their story. However, one of the greatest teams ever loses in the second round of the playoffs to their hated rival if Corey Crawford isn’t between the pipes.
They won. Crawford won. Chicago won. And then, on a sunny July afternoon, Corey Crawford became one of us.
“Fuckin’ right Chicago!”
From that point on, it was a wrap. Corey Crawford was our guy. And while that is the greatest tale in the legend of Corey Crawford, it’s only the beginning.
He was the opposite of soft. Corey Crawford grabbed his lunch pail on his way to work every day. He threw a few cold ones on ice in the trunk for after his shift in the parking lot with the guys. He was Chicago.
Perhaps the moment he really won us over was when Kyle Clifford tried to mix it up with Jonathan Toews during Game 2 of the 2013 Western Conference Final.
With the Blackhawks in control of the game, Kings’ forward Kyle Clifford decided to mix it up with the Blackhawks captain. He got a few shots in on Toews in front of the Chicago net. Corey Crawford wasn’t having it.
Crawford grabbed Clifford, yanked him off of Toews, and threw him in a head-lock. The crowd loved it. The ‘CO-REY’ chant was ringing through The Madhouse. Jonathan Bernier, who replaced Kings’ goalie Jonathan Quick, did not love it.
Bernier skated towards center ice. Crawford went palms up and essentially waved Bernier over. Clifford already got some, come on down. Bernier didn’t want any. Crawford would go on to have a history with Los Angeles Kings netminders.
In a blue-collar city, that stuff doesn’t fly. When your buddy is down, you jump in. Crawford got it. He always got it. Hell, he took on Blues’ forward Robby Fabbri by himself during the 2016 playoffs.
That’s the thing about Corey Crawford. It’s not about the numbers. It’s never been about the numbers. Don’t get me wrong, the numbers are good. No goalie if Blackhawks history has more playoff wins than Corey Crawford’s 52. But no matter what, Corey Crawford was who you wanted back there when things mattered most.
Game 7 overtime? Give me Corey Crawford. Playoff clincher? Number 50. A full-on brawl in the back alley with your buddies? You know who.
The thing you noticed most about Corey Crawford’s presence is the calmness you felt with him in net. You knew, that no matter the circumstance, Corey Crawford would show up when it mattered most. When the Blackhawks went down 3-2 in the 2015 Western Conference Final to the Anaheim Ducks, there was no fear. Corey had it.
Triple overtime against the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final? No pressure. Calm, cool, and collected. 51 saves and a big-time Game 1 win after Andrew Shaw’s shin pad collected the game-winner.
Game 6, Stanley Cup on the line, on home ice, there wasn’t another goalie in the world we wanted in the blue paint. Our underdog? Put him in. “Crawford can’t win a Cup in a full season.”
The Lightning threw 25 shots on goal that stormy night in Chicago. Crawford threw them right back. In the most important game ever played on United Center ice, Corey Crawford pitched a shutout.
Often doubted, never appreciated, Corey Crawford once again proved the naysayers wrong. He was now a two-time Stanley Cup Champion. That was, and still is, a distinction that no other Blackhawks’ goaltender could claim. The stuff of a legend.
Through and through, they still doubted him. When the bad years came after the success, it was his fault. Give us the underdog. Because through it all, you knew who you could count on.
When the Blackhawks somehow, someway found themselves into the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Corey Crawford once again showed up. He was fresh off of dealing with COVID-19. He hadn’t played hockey in months. It didn’t matter.
Illness doesn’t affect legends. There are no bumps in the road. If there is one thing that will make you feel good about the end of Corey Crawford, it was his last stand.
After the Blackhawks got past the Edmonton Oilers to get into the real playoffs, Corey Crawford stepped up against the Vegas Golden Knights. The Hawks were out-matched, but sometimes, goalies steal a game.
In a series they lost 4-1, the Blackhawks played their worst game as a team in Game 4 facing elimination. Vegas dominated this game from start to finish. It was grown men versus boys. The Golden Knights out-shot the Blackhawks 49-25. It didn’t matter.
Corey Crawford put together one of the greatest goaltending performances you’ll ever see. He stopped 48 of 49 shots. The Blackhawks won the game 3-1. They should have been swept. They should have lost 9-0. Corey Crawford, one last time, threw the team on his back and dragged them across the finish line.
It was fitting for a guy who truly never got the respect he deserved. There were always doubters and naysayers. Some fans wanted Collin Delia to start that game. Crawford once again shut them up. He once again showed up when it mattered most. Forever and always our guy.
So, as Crawford moves on to New Jersey, there will be so much to miss about one of the greatest to ever stand between the pipes in Chicago. We’ll miss Gene Honda echoing “In goal, number 50. Corey Crawford” throughout the United Center.
We’ll miss Pat Foley exclaiming “BIG SAVE BY CRAWFORD!” We will miss the “Corey.. Corey.. Corey!” chant ringing through the Madhouse. We’ll miss the tenacity that Corey Crawford brought to each and every game.
However, more than anything, we will miss the calm and reassuring feeling that Corey Crawford’s presence instilled in the fan base. Because when Crawford was in net, you didn’t feel scared. You didn’t feel like the team was going to lose. You had celebration beers on deck because you knew number 50 would come through.
For Blackhawks fans, the 2010s were the golden years. It was the best stretch of hockey this city has ever seen. It likely will stand as the best stretch of hockey this city ever sees. The Blackhawks were the toast of the town for years, and Corey was front and center with a glass in his hand.
The Blackhawks gave Chicagoans some of the best years of their lives. The moments quickly became memories. However, those memories are something that we will hold close to us for the rest of our lives. And for that, we owe Corey Crawford a heartfelt thank you.
Without Corey Crawford, none of this happens. There aren’t two additional Stanley Cup Champion banners hanging from the rafters of the United Center. There is no “Fuckin’ right Chicago!” in our lingo. So, for everything you did for this city, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for everything, Corey Crawford.