Bryan Bickell recounts experiencing M.S. symptoms with Blackhawks: 'I was losing control over my own body'


Bryan Bickell recounts experiencing M.S. symptoms with Blackhawks: 'I was losing control over my own body'

After taking five months off during the 2016-17 season to focus on treatment for his multiple sclerosis diagnosis, Bryan Bickell fought back to return for the final four games before retiring from hockey on his own terms.

The comeback was inspiring, and he even capped it off by scoring a goal in the shootout to cap off his NHL career:

But the journey certainly had its ups and downs.

In a lengthy piece written for The Players' Tribune, Bickell opens up about experiencing symptoms from multiple sclerosis during the Blackhawks' 2015 Stanley Cup run and the road to getting back on the ice.

Here's a snippet:

When I first started feeling different, toward the end of the regular season, I wrote it off as laziness. Like it was just a temporary mental lapse that had put me in a slump. I promised myself I’d be in better shape come playoff time.

Then the playoffs came, and I was still hurting. In fact, I was hurting even worse than before. I started missing practices, and then games during our first playoff series. I tried new training regimens, I tried altering my diet, I tried basically everything, but I just could not get going.

By the conference finals, I was beside myself. I couldn’t understand what was happening. Game 5 was my breaking point. I took a hit into the boards early in the third period and I couldn’t catch my breath, even after I got to the bench. I eventually huffed and puffed back to the locker room before I fainted, right there in the doorway. I fell face-first into a wall on my way down. I’m honestly lucky I still had my helmet on.

When I came to, the first thing I saw was the trainer, hovering over me with smelling salts.

“I think you need to see a doctor.”

At first, the doctors told me it could be any number of things — vertigo, some kind of issue with the fluid in my ear, or even residual symptoms from an infected tooth. Nobody knew for sure. I saw all kinds of specialists and found some temporary solutions, but it seemed like nothing was helping me get back to 100%.

We ended up coming back and beating Anaheim in seven games, and then we went on to win the Cup. Our second in three years. I finished with five assists, zero goals, and one really shitty feeling inside my body.

Of course you’re going to be happy when your team wins the Cup, but I just couldn’t celebrate for very long. I was beat down, and no matter what I tried, things just kept going downhill for me physically. I started to lose control of my left arm and leg. They would move at random times, like they had a mind of their own. Or they wouldn’t respond to my brain when I tried to tell them what to do.

I was losing control over my own body, and it was really, really scary.

The only thing that was scarier was that I couldn’t find anyone to tell me why it was happening. And I didn’t get an answer until a year and a half later.

Read the full story here.

The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line


The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line

Jonathan Toews' offense usually comes in spurts. We're seeing it again right now.

But it's no coincidence his numbers have spiked since Patrick Kane joined him on the top line.

After recording another two points in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Blackhawks captain has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his past eight games; he had 11 points in his previous 23 games total.

Toews also reached the 20-goal mark for the 11th straight season, joining Kane and Alex Ovechkin as the only three active players to accomplish that feat to open their NHL careers.

Kane has seen his offensive production pick up, too. He has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in his past 13 games after going five straight without one, which was his longest point drought of the season.

When the two of them are on the ice together at even strength, they control 57.9 percent of the shot attempts. It hasn't quite translated on the scoresheet (14 goals for and 17 goals against) maybe the way it should, but they are certainly spending far more time in the offensive zone than the defensive end and are generating a high volume of shots.

So yes, reuniting the dynamic duo has worked stats-wise.

But it comes at a cost:

— Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz haven't scored in six straight contests.

— Alex DeBrincat's season-long goal drought is up to 13 games.

— Artem Anisimov's last even-strength goal came nine games ago.

When you put Kane and Toews together, you risk losing some balance across the lineup and that's why Joel Quenneville has always been reluctant to go to that nuclear option. He prefers when opposing teams are forced to play 'Pick Your Poison.'

Ideally, you'd like to spread out the scoring, but one thing is for certain: The Blackhawks are better when Kane and Toews are each producing offensively, whether they're apart or together. 

When the wins start to dry up though — and they have — that's normally when it's time to try something different.

Perhaps more importantly, the last thing you want are those scoring droughts mentioned above to stretch even further and get inside the younger skaters' heads, then carrying it with them into the offseason.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Has the championship window closed?


Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Has the championship window closed?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Jonathan Toews sits down with Pat Boyle for a 1-on-1 interview. Toews weighs in on his season with Brandon Saad, whether he expects major changes this offseason and has the championship window closed?

Also, Adam Burish joins the podcast and plays the game: “Building block, not sure, or no thanks.” Burish runs down the Blackhawks forwards and predicts whether or not they have a future with the team.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: