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Thibodeau praises Blackhawks in quest for another Cup
by Adam Fluck
Posted on Jun 13
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was among those on hand at a sold-out United Center for the Blackhawks opening game of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday, a marathon 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins in triple overtime.
It was the first Blackhawks game he’s attended in person since being hired by the Bulls in 2010, two weeks after the Blackhawks claimed their last Stanley Cup with a 4-2 series win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Needless to say, he came away impressed.
“It was an incredible game and obviously they’ve had an incredible season,” said Thibodeau of the Hawks. “They got off to a great start and have been remarkable all year long. They’ve shown great togetherness and toughness. They may get down, but they never quit. They keep coming at you. They attack at both ends of the ice and they’re a lot of fun to watch.”
It almost sounds as if Thibodeau was talking about his own team – a resilient group in its own right – which perhaps explains why the Blackhawks’ effort has resonated with him. As for the atmosphere at the United Center, Thibodeau said the intensity of the 22,110 fans in attendance provided a lift.
“In the third period when they were down, there was the lull,” said Thibodeau. “But when they scored the second goal to make it 3-2, you could just feel the building. And then when they tied it up, it was tremendous. But that’s been the mark of their greatness all year—when they get down, they find a way in the end to put themselves in the position. I think that’s what makes them so enjoyable to watch.”
Raised in Connecticut and having coached for the Boston Celtics from 2007-10, Thibodeau knows what it’s like to live in places where hockey has a presence. He watches games on TV when time allows with an appreciation for the competition, especially that which exists in the postseason.
Furthermore, Thibodeau credits the Hawks for winning the Cup in 2010 and remaining an elite team with an opportunity to do so again despite facing some difficult decisions surrounding the salary cap following their championship season.
“Joel Quenneville has done an unbelievable job coaching the team,” said Thibodeau. “Stan Bowman and John McDonough provide great leadership, and of course their players, who have tremendous talent. I sat down low and watching the speed of the game is amazing.”
As for whether or not he’s torn over who to cheer for in this year’s Stanley Cup finals matchup, Thibodeau acknowledged he followed the Bruins while attending Salem State University and had diehard hockey playing roommates who cheered for Boston.
“But I’m more of a Chicago fan now,” said Thibodeau.
“I have great respect for what Joel Quenneville has done,” added Thibodeau, who became familiar with the Blackhawks coach from when he grew up in Connecticut and Quenneville played for the Hartford Whalers.
Thibodeau speaks with Quenneville on occasion and said he’s not surprised by his success.
“He was real big in our area,” said Thibodeau of Quenneville. “He’s a great guy and I can see why he’s a great coach.”
With the Hawks and Bruins series set to resume Saturday night, the stage is set for another raucous crowd for Game 2 at the Madhouse on Madison. And Thibodeau has no doubt the Hawks, as well as the fans that support them, will be ready.
“The city itself is just a great sports town,” said Thibodeau. “Whether it’s the Hawks, Bulls, Bears, White Sox or Cubs, the fans get behind their team. So it’s a lot of fun. With how the Hawks have played my three years here – of course I got here right after they won that first Cup – they’re a model of consistency and they’re going to play their style no matter what. It’s a credit to them and we’re all proud of them.”