After 15 seasons in the NHL, Chris Kunitz announced his retirement on Tuesday and joined the Blackhawks organization as a player development adviser. The four-time Stanley Cup winner said he started contemplating hanging up the skates and moving onto his post-playing career chapter during the exit interviews in April, and there was mutual interest between Kunitz and the Blackhawks on bringing him into the hockey operations department.
"We knew that ... I wasn't going to be playing that much farther into my career," Kunitz said on a Wednesday morning conference call. "We like the Chicago area, my wife being from here, and we thought that that would be a great way to transition into a different phase of life, still wanting to be at home with the kids and not be full time and things like that. We found a way to be able to find a position to make that work and hopefully it works for both sides."
Kunitz called his position "unique" and something that's going to evolve over time. For now, he knows he'll be part of the Blackhawks' staff meetings and will share as much knowledge as he can throughout that process. He also will assist the coaching staff with the Rockford IceHogs, which will be a good opportunity to do so when the Blackhawks are on the road.
Kunitz observed all five days of Blackhawks development camp, and was seen chatting with Jeremy Colliton on many occasions. The coaching change in November was difficult for the players, particularly those who spent the last 10 years playing one way under Joel Quenneville, but Kunitz acknowledged that Colliton is a bright, young head coach who immediately gained respect of the locker room.
"I think change is hard for anybody," Kunitz said. "For a guy like myself, I've had numerous coaches but you learn that it doesn't matter what the gentleman's age is that's coming into the room, they're there for the greater good of the team. I was impressed with the way Jeremy could come in and control the room. Obviously he doesn't have the distinct background that a guy like Q has when he walked in there, but I think the knowledge of the game and the way he portrayed it and the way he thought about it really resonated with myself and the way I wanted to play the game."
As far as what Kunitz will miss the most about his playing career, winning four Stanley Cups certainly sticks out. But it's the journey and the little things that helped accomplish those goals that can't be matched outside the trenches.
"I think it's competing," Kunitz said. "You've done it for so long, you go out there and you battle and get in a little scrum in front of the net or whatever it is in some random game in December and you can go out there and compete and look back at your bench and know that not every day is going to be perfect, you can still fight through together as a team. So I think trying to duplicate that when you're not playing anymore is going to be really tough.
"I don't think most guys are going to miss skating in the summer, the working out to try and withstain a long season but I think it's those little moments that you're on the bench or you're on the ice that you rally around each other and have that fire growing inside you to be at your best, that's something that I don't think you can ever get back but I'm sure I'll miss those things the most."Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.