In retrospect, the
non-trade looks golden for Chicago. Ruskowski, once an enfant terrible, has
succeeded Keith Magnuson as team captain and spiritual leader and become the
Black Hawks' front man in the infighting, while Preston has played both wings
with excellence, if not with a whole lot of panache.
season Ruskowski, 25, and Preston, 27, joined Mulvey, 23, to form the RPM Line,
one of the NHL's most productive. Mulvey, a sinewy right wing who never had
scored more than 19 goals in his five NHL seasons, has gotten 37 this season.
"Terry and Rich were the best things that ever happened to me," he
says. The line was later split up as part of Coach Eddie Johnston's search for
scoring balance, but Ruskowski still leads the team in points with 65, Preston
has 30 goals and Mulvey is sniffing at 40.
The rest of the
Hawks' attack is less imposing, but a vastly unheralded defense, anchored by
Goaltender Tony Esposito, makes amends. Esposito, certainly the most durable
and probably the top goalie in the NHL, has starred for a decade despite
migraine headaches, jangled nerves and broken bones. He has a crack in his left
hand right now, but leads the NHL in wins (29).and shutouts (6) and has a fine
2.90 goals-against average.
than good," says Defenseman Bob Murray. "He's unbelievable." Murray
is a member of the anonymous backline that has helped the Hawks maintain the
NHL's third-best goals-against mark. He, Doug Wilson, Mike O'Connell and rookie
Keith Brown are all highly mobile, and Johnston, who was a Boston teammate of
Bobby Orr's for seven seasons, has encouraged them to rush the puck, not just
But Johnston, the
nonplaying hero of the team's rebirth, doesn't confine his teachings to the
defense. He has coerced the Hawks into becoming more aggressive, more involved.
Chicago's lack of offense—the Hawks have scored just 217 goals, 20th in the
21-team NHL—demands that it continue along safety-first lines, but no longer is
the team a plotting, plodding, dump-and-pray bunch playing cocoon hockey.
former style, last year's spineless Black Hawks were a travesty, particularly
away from home, where they had an 11-24-5 record. Early this month the new
Hawks completed a 3-0-2 road trip, their best since 1971, and Johnston detected
a personality trait long absent behind the Indian Head.
he said. "We were down 3-0 in Los Angeles in our last game of the trip, but
we didn't parachute. We came back and tied the Kings 3-3. That showed me
something. We have pride, confidence, a system—and one other thing. We're
having fun. You got to have fun. When I came here as a player two years ago,
the dressing room was a morgue. When practice was over, players couldn't wait
to get out. It was like somebody yelled 'Fire!' But to win, you've got to be
together. Now, it's like my old days in Boston. One guy goes for a beer, all 20
Make that 21.
Whenever the Black Hawks have a team function, Eddie is welcome. Indeed,
Johnston, an NHL goalie for 16 seasons, has achieved the ultimate in his rookie
coaching year—the players not only respect him, they like him. "Eddie
treats us like men because he is a man," says Esposito. "No drudgery.
It's not aggravation to come to the rink anymore."
and communication have replaced tension and apprehension in the Hawks'
clubhouse. Ruskowski and Preston each played five seasons in the WHA, but they
are constantly jabbed about being in their first year of pro hockey. One Hawk
even suggested the WHA refugees are genuine candidates for NHL Rookie of the
Year honors. Mike Veisor, Esposito's backup, is chided daily for being a Jewish
goalie instead of a Jewish owner. And no longer do the Hawks ask for the
"no smiling" section when they board a plane.
the Hawks' New Brunswick affiliate last season and was named to succeed Bob
Pulford as Chicago's coach in September, with Pulford concentrating on his GM
duties. Pulford admittedly "bit off more than I could chew" three years
ago when he signed as both G.M. and coach, after coaching the L.A. Kings for
five seasons. A spartan coach, Pulford's idea of a "reward" was putting
one case of beer for the whole team on a bus bound for Philadelphia after a
game in Madison Square Garden. All 24 cans would be consumed halfway through
the Lincoln Tunnel.