Blackhawks

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

bryan_bickell.jpg
AP

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.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

1020_hawks_yotes.jpg

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes Saturday night on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Niklas Hjalmarsson's new home.

Brace yourselves, Chicago. It's going to be a weird site seeing Hjalmarsson in a different sweater other than the Blackhawks, where he spent his first 10 NHL seasons and won three Stanley Cups.

Now he serves as an alternate captain and blue-line anchor for the Coyotes, who are the only team still seeking its first win of the season. You know they'll be hungry to snap that skid, especially when there's extra motivation for a player on their team facing a bunch of old friends.

2. Connor Murphy returns to Arizona, too.

The man Hjalmarsson was traded for will also be returning to a place he called home for four years. Murphy's role with the Coyotes increased every year before he was dealt to the Blackhawks as part of a shake-up for both teams, so you know he's going to play with something to prove.

Murphy is a physical defenseman, and has laid several notable big hits this season. His former teammates surely know it, and may want to keep their heads up.

3. Patrick Kane 2.0?

Ever since he was drafted with the No. 7 overall pick in 2016, Clayton Keller has drawn comparisons to Kane. They're both undersized, offensive playmakers, possess supreme stick-handling abilities and are American-born players.

Keller got a brief taste of NHL action last year, but he's secured a full-time spot with the Coyotes this season and has been arguably their best player so far.

The 19-year-old forward paces all rookies with five goals and ranks second with seven points, and leads the Coyotes in both categories. Expect to see his name as a finalist for the Calder Trophy for the league's top rookie at the end of the season.

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

1020_anton_forsberg.jpg
USA TODAY

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

Anton Forsberg had just finished an extended morning skate Wednesday morning in St. Louis. The backup goaltender had played in one regular-season game for the Blackhawks to that point, so getting in extra work to stay sharp was helpful.

“I try to keep my focus in practice and work extra every day, get a few extra shots in practice with the extra guys who are out there, work with Jimmy and try to keep my game shape,” Forsberg said, referring to Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite.

Whatever Forsberg’s working on in practice and skates seems to be working, because in two games with the Blackhawks he’s looked sharp. Forsberg probably deserved a victory on Thursday night when he stopped 40 shots in the Blackhawks’ 2-1 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers. It’s the backup life to wait and see when that next start will come, but Forsberg has been ready.

“For sure I felt more comfortable today, more used to the speed,” he said following Thursday’s game. “I felt I read the game better, felt I had more time moving around. It’s tough, again, to lose in overtime. Obviously I wanted to win and it’s frustrating.”

Frustrating for sure, but Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they want and need: a dependable backup that gives them a chance to win. The two goals Forsberg gave up on Thursday weren’t softies, either — Patrick Maroon’s goal off a ridiculous Connor McDavid pass and Mark Letestu’s over game-winner that deflected off Brent Seabrook’s stick.

“He kept us in a tight game like he did in Toronto, got us to overtime. I kind of feel bad we didn’t get him a win in either of those,” Ryan Hartman said. “He played well both of those games. It’s nice to have a guy on the back end like that.”

Forsberg has blended in well with the Blackhawks. It helps that he already knew two of them, Brandon Saad and Artem Anisimov, his former teammates in Columbus. He and Corey Crawford already have a good rapport. Same goes for he and Waite, and Forsberg has soaked up any information they’ve given him.

“I feel like both him and Corey teach me a lot. We talk about different situations, especially all the reads,” Forsberg said. “I get to know how (Crawford) thinks the game. He’s been around a long time and has been doing well, so it’s interesting every day to hear what he has to say. Even Jimmy’s been around same thing there, discussing my game, what we want to improve, what we want to do different, what to keep the same and go from there.”

The extra work in practices and skates appears to be working as Forsberg has done a lot right in just his first two games, which were 10 days apart. The Blackhawks have had a good run of backup goaltenders; two games is a small sample size but Forsberg could be the latest reliable backup.