Philadelphia Flyers

Emotional Bryan Bickell retires with Blackhawks: 'I didn't want it any other way'

Emotional Bryan Bickell retires with Blackhawks: 'I didn't want it any other way'

Bryan Bickell got the call from the Blackhawks not long after he played his final game against the Philadelphia Flyers, a call offering him the opportunity to retire with the team with which he won three Stanley Cups.

“I didn’t want it any other way,” Bickell said.

Bickell’s retirement talk on Wednesday was reminiscent of so many of the media interviews he gave: sometimes funny, sometimes emotional and completely honest. The former Blackhawks forward, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis nearly a year ago, fought back tears as he talked of his time with the team, ending everything here and his health — which is improving.

“Every day, every month is getting better,” Bickell said. “There are good days and bad days but there’s more good than bad. Things are going the right way. The treatments and technology they come out with every month, every year, it’s outstanding. Hopefully one day we find a cure and I hope we find help to do that.”

Bickell will keep being active in the fight against MS — “I want to tell my story, what I went through, just inspire other people to get diagnosed and the experience with their families.” As for hockey, maybe he’ll get involved with that again in the future.

“I want to get back into hockey,” he said. “I have two young girls, 3 and 1, and watching them grow is the first thing I want to do and see where it goes from there. Work with kids and things like that would be a goal for me and I’m looking forward to it.”

Bickell’s playing career ended way too prematurely. It ended as well as it could have, with Bickell fighting back to play in the Carolina Hurricanes’ final few regular-season games last spring and him scoring a shootout goal — “my shooting percentage is 50 percent, which is nice,” he said to laughs. When the news came down that he would retire with the Blackhawks he was inundated with messages. Bickell gave the Blackhawks his best; his retiring with them was a fitting, “thank you.”

“It was nice to see the respect,” Bickell said. “I know the news came out last night [on my retiring here] and seeing all the texts, the media and just all the respect for me and the team has built in the city, it’s an honor to be part of it. To finish here, it’s awesome.”

How a Jonathan Toews injury could have kept Blackhawks from winning 2010 Stanley Cup

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AP

How a Jonathan Toews injury could have kept Blackhawks from winning 2010 Stanley Cup

The Blackhawks made history in 2010 when they snapped a 49-year championship drought by breaking through to beat the Philadelphia Flyers in six games. But their fate could have changed dramatically if it got to a Game 7 for a reason that practically nobody was aware of until now.

The Athletic’s NHL Insider Craig Custance sat down over the summer with some of hockey’s greatest coaches to dissect games of their crowning achievements for his book titled, “Behind the Bench: Inside the Minds of Hockey's Greatest Coaches,” which was released in September. One of those coaches included was Joel Quenneville, who won his first career Stanley Cup as a head coach with the Blackhawks in 2010.

So the two went back and rewatched Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final in Philadelphia — the series-clinching game — to get a glimpse inside Quenneville's mind during that game.

Well, inside the book, there was a pretty big revelation regarding their star player. Jonathan Toews had apparently suffered a knee injury late in the game that was serious enough to put his status for a potential Game 7 in doubt.

Here are a few snippets:

"Jonny gets hurt in this game with less than 10 minutes to go in regulation," Quenneville says. "He can't really go. Thank God we scored early [in overtime]. I think it would have been impossible for Jonny to play Game 7."

Wait. What?

This was all news to me.

Same to everyone else.

It happened in the waning minutes of the third period on the play the Flyers evened up the score at 3-3. Toews was shoved into the goaltender after the goal was scored and stayed down on the ice grabbing his knee, then labored back to the bench hunched over.

His teammates didn't know how serious Toews' injury was at the time either:

"It wasn't until midsummer. I remember talking to him, he was still having problems with this knee," Sharp said. "That's when I was like, 'Holy shit, we wouldn't have had Tazer in Game 7.' That just shows you the margin of winning and losing is so small."

In this moment, Hossa has no idea how banged up Toews is. He taps the puck back to Toews as they enter the offensive zone. Flyers forward Darroll Powe bumps him off the puck and the threat is wiped out. The Flyers are headed the other way.

"Yeah, he can't go. Left leg, can't really go," Quenneville says.

It went completely unnoticed, but it could have been a psychological turning point in the series if the Flyers recognized that the Blackhawks' captain was banged up:

Just imagine the lift the Flyers would get if they realized that not only had they tied the game and possibly forced a Game 7, but the Blackhawks' most important player was injured. Quenneville realized this. He was hoping to play Toews just enough to throw the Flyers off the scent.

"He gets that shift, so everybody knows he's fine. Okay, this is Carter. Watch this chance he gets."

Claude Giroux finds a wide-open Jeff Carter, who spins and fires a puck that Niemi somehow saves.

I'm stunned at how close the Blackhawks came to losing this game.

"What a chance he had," Quenneville says.

"That would have made it 4-3 and you're going back without Toews in Game 7."

"Every one, we got lucky."

What a turn of events that would have been, huh?

Knowing the competitor in Toews, he probably would have found a way to play in a possible Game 7, but it certainly makes Chicago appreciate Patrick Kane's game-winning goal in overtime even more knowing its captain may not have been able to play or, at the very least, wouldn't have been close to full strength.

The book goes into full detail of how Quenneville monitored Toews' injury throughout the end of that third period and in overtime, the communication he had with Toews and trainers, and even offers his thoughts on his shifts after the injury like he's coaching in real time again, among many other things.

It's a must-read, and a great in-depth look at how the complexion of the series could have changed on a play nobody saw.

Bryan Bickell tallies first career shootout goal in last NHL game

Bryan Bickell tallies first career shootout goal in last NHL game

It's not often a game between two teams eliminated from playoff contention can be categorized as a tearjerker, but Sunday night's Carolina Hurricanes' shootout win over the Philadelphia Flyers was just that. 

Former Blackhawk Bryan Bickell was at the center of it after being tapped by Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters to leadoff the shootout. 

The 31-year-old forward was playing in his final NHL game due to multiple sclerosis, a central nervous system disease that he was diagnosed with nearly five months ago. Bickell has been going through monthly treatment but did not think maintaining a hockey career was possible. 

Although the 10-year vet has played forward in 394 professional games, no one would mistake him for Patrick Kane during a shootout. In fact, according to hockey reference, Bickell had taken just two before Sunday night -- both were in a Blackhawks jersey and both were missed. 

Sunday was different, though, as Bickell raced in and fired a beauty passed Flyers goalie Anthony Stolarz. 

Even better, his wife, Amanda, was in the stadium anxiously watching. When the goal went in, she jumped up to celebrate all while holding the couple's kid. The cameras caught her crying after the game as the emotional moment came to a close.  

Over the span of his career, Bickell's most memorable moments came in Chicago. From 2006 to 2016, he scored 65 goals with the Hawks and hoisted three Stanley Cups. He tallied 17 points in the 2013 Cup run while posting a plus-11. 

After his finale Sunday, the Blackhawks tweeted a congratulations.