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2015 NHL Stanley Cup Finals: The few Blackhawks and Lightning franchise connections

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Connected at the moment by way of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015, there aren't many prominent historic ties between the Bolts and the 'Hawks. There are a few of note, though.

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Lack of history or not, history will be made.
Lack of history or not, history will be made.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The city of Tampa has an infamous connection to Chicago, one that doesn't get highlighted too often unless you're into history and read up on city history. Tampa had its own cosa nosta ties in the past; we're talking the mob here. The feds who monitored things, nicknamed the city as "Little Chicago" at one point (along with other nicknames). In business as well as through infamous reputations, Tampa's mob ties certain had a connection with Chicago.

Another connection, this one that those over 30 should know about if you're into sports, the Tampa Bay area is connected to Chicago in that what is now known as Tropicana Field was used in relocation threats by the Chicago White Sox in order to obtain a replacement for Comisky Park. In that regard, if you'd like to read more about that failed courtship as well as more about Tampa Bay's quest for Major League Baseball, I'd strongly urge you to check out Stadium for Rent (second Edition) by Bob Andelman.

But none of that is hockey, now is it? The next two weeks* (*if necessary) will be an entirely different kind of connection between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks. It's the first time these two clubs have ever faced each other in the postseason and the all-time record between the clubs is not exactly extensive with thanks to scheduling and the Conference divide:  Only 34 head-to-head games in history, a 15-14 record with 5 ties (2 of those losses were in overtime; it's tough to distinguish everything by way of either hockey-reference.com or mcubed.net). The fact the potential is there that the clubs will play 1/5th of the all time series over two weeks* (*if necessary) accentuates the abbreviated history of play.

Game #1 between the clubs is also game #1 of the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise, October 7th 1992:

An off-ice connection between the franchises of note goes by the name of Esposito. No, not Phil, but his Tony Esposito, brother of Lightning team founder Phil Esposito. Tony played his entire professional career with the ‘Hawks franchise.  He was Chief Scout for the Bolts from the team's founding until 1998 when then-owner Art Williams cleaned house.

The first notable player in team history that serves as a connection is Enricco Ciccone, who the Lightning acquired from the Washington Capitals (along with a pair of draft choices) in 1993-94 for Joe Reekie. Chico's tenure wasn't the longest with the club (107 games over 3 seasons, with 4 goals and 8 assists over that period) but he did grow into a fan-favorite as a fighter. He was traded to the Blackhawks for Patrick Poulin and Igor Ulanov at the 1996 trade deadline.  Chico played 78 games with the ‘Hawks from 1996 through 1997, earning 2 goals and 3 assists in that span. He bounced around after that stint, including another 12 games for the Lightning before his playing career ended.  You can review Ciccone's full trade history and the head-scratching draft choices made by picks obtained by the Lightning here.

Ulanov, the player nicknamed "Iggy Pop" by way of his checks, played a full season (though only 54 games) with the Lightning and two partial seasons Ulanov scored 5 gaols and 15 assists in his tenure in Tampa while also a collective minus-4 during his tenure. Poulin's career also lasted all of one full season and two partial seasons; he scored 14 goals and 22 assists in his time with the Lightning.

Both players were dealt to the Montreal Canadiens in 1997-98.

Goalie Nikolai khabibulin re-established himself as one of the elite goalies in the NHL during his tenure with the Bolts from 2001 through 2004, this all came after his contract dispute with the then-Pheonix Coyotes. With one more season on his contract after the Lightning's 2004 Stanley Cup Championship, the 2004-05 NHL lockout happened and that year was wiped away. Khabibulin hit free agency in the post-lockout signing frenzy and took a payday with the Blackhawks. His numbers in Chicago were respectable but he was playing on a weaker team than what the franchise has become. You can stat mine his career with TB and Chicago here.

A more recent player that has ties to both clubs is Matt Walker, another defenseman. Walker played for Chicago in 2008-09 after a long tenure with the St. Louis Blues, scoring a goal and 13 assists in 65 games played.  His defensive reputation was sound and stable (he was a plus-7 with the ‘Hawks) and was signed to a contract in free agency in the summer of 2009 by the Lightning in an attempt to shore up the struggling blue line. Walker played on a much weaker Bolts team than what he played on in Chicago, scoring 2 goals and getting 3 assists in 66 games while being a minus-11. He was traded to the Flyers in the 2010 off-season for Simon Gagne in the trade that created the Yzerman is Jedi catchphrase.

The link that stands out is very current and very appropriate for the coming confrontation between Tampa Bay and Chicago. Brad Richards has a Stanley Cup ring that he earned in his playing days with the Lightning. He also earned the Conn Smythe trophy for his playoff performance in 2004. He's a storied member of Lightning franchise history even though his career only lasted seven seasons with the Lightning (plus one lockout year) before being traded to the Dallas Stars at the 2007-08 deadline. Richards played for the Stars and then the Rangers from 2008 until last season. He was bought out by the Rangers and signed a contract with the Chicago Blackhawks last summer. Richards had a pretty solid season on a solid team in Chicago: 76 games played with 12 goals and 25 assists. He's got 2 goals and 7 assists in 16 playoff games.

Surely there are other connections between the Bolts and Blackhawks, aren't there? Who are the other players that slipped in and out of each franchise? Are there other little anecdotes (such as the Lightning being Norris Division rivals to the ‘Hawks in 1992-93)?  Share them in comments.