Blackhawks

Eddie Olczyk, Bobby Hull, Jeremy Roenick highlight former players at 2018 Blackhawks Convention

Eddie Olczyk, Bobby Hull, Jeremy Roenick highlight former players at 2018 Blackhawks Convention

The Blackhawks will host a sizable group of alumni at the 11th annual Blackhawks Convention this weekend at the Hilton Chicago.

Eddie Olczyk, Bobby and Dennis Hull, Jeremy Roenick, Denis Savard and Chris Chelios are some of the former players highlighting the event, starting on Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. on NBC Chicago’s “Blackhawks Convention Opening Ceremonies.”

Blackhawks broadcaster Olczyk, who was diagnosed with colon cancer last year, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Cubs game Tuesday night in anticipation of the convention. The 1994 Stanley Cup winner announced he was cancer-free in March, making his appearance even more special.

Roenick, a Blackhawks all-time top 10 goal scorer (267) and points leader (596), will take part in the weekend for the first time.

“I think early that maybe the relationship wasn’t strong enough,” Roenick said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. “… And I think going to the convention is so important to the city and so important to the franchise in terms of what they do for people in the city.”

Chelios will be introduced as the newest team ambassador this weekend. The Blackhawks announced Monday morning that the Hall of Fame defenseman is once again a member of the organization.

“To be able to join the Blackhawks organization in this role means everything to me,” Chelios said about his new position. “… Chicago is my hometown and returning to this organization is very special to me and my family.”

The list of past Blackhawks players who will also be present includes Bryan Bickell, Adam Burish, Brian Campbell, Eric Daze, Ben Eager, Tony Esposito, Colin Fraser, Stu Grimson, Steve Larmer, Jamal Mayers, Troy Murray, Bernie Nicholls, Phil Russell and Patrick Sharp.

John Scott, the controversial NHL All-Star who had only registered one point with the Arizona Coyotes leading up to his fan vote selection during the 2015-16 season, will also be a fun player in attendance. He only notched two points in 69 games with Chicago.

The present players and staff members attending the gathering feature Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith and head coach Joel Quenneville, among others.

According to the Blackhawks, fans can interact with these ex-members, current players, coaches and team executives through activities like autograph and photo sessions.

Artemi Panarin and desperate Rangers set to face Blackhawks

Artemi Panarin and desperate Rangers set to face Blackhawks

When you see a highlight of Artemi Panarin making a dazzling play — usually that results in the puck finding the back of the net — you can't help but think, 'He'd really look good in a Hawks sweater... again.'

Alex DeBrincat struggling to one-time the puck from the left circle the way he used to on the man advantage is one of the factors giving the Hawks the NHL's worst power play. Artemi Panarin was the guy who used to do that for the Blackhawks, and he rarely missed. 

Alas, the man of bread is locked up for six more years after this one with the Rangers at an AAV north of $11.6 million and his contract has a no movement clause. 

In June 2017, the Blackhawks traded the dynamic winger to the Columbus Blue Jackets, along with forward Tyler Motte and a draft pick, to re-acquire Brandon Saad and get goalie Anton Forsberg and a pick. 

Panarin, now 28, had 151 points (61 goals, 90 assists) with Chicago in two seasons after signing a free agent contract on May 1, 2015. He previously played in the Kontinental Hockey League. 

The 2016 Calder Trophy winner had 169 points (55 goals, 114 assists) in two seasons with the Blue Jackets before signing with the Rangers as a free agent. 

This year, his 78 points (29 goals, 49 assists) are good for fifth in the league. 

Last year, Panarin returned to the United Center ahead of becoming a free agent and had a friendly competition with Patrick Kane to see who would be last of the ice following warmups. Kane isn't sure there will be time for pregame shenanigans with his pal before Wednesday's game.

"I think we got that faceoff tonight (40th anniversary of Miracle on Ice ceremonial puck drop with Jack O'Callahan), so it'll be interesting to see what comes of that," Kane said. "I always try to be the last on my team, not really worry about the other team, but he's having a great season. 

"Obviously an amazing player, a player that you'd pay to watch play the game. Still try to stay pretty close with him and stay in contact and just kind of catch up here and there throughout the season."

Panarin has meant a lot to a Rangers team desperate to claw back into the playoff picture while sitting eight points out, just like the Hawks.

"Unbelievable," New York center Ryan Strome (brother of Chicago center Dylan Strome) said of Panarin. "The way he controls the puck, the way he controls the play, you guys were lucky enough to see it for a few years here. 

"I think he's better now than he was then. His game's growing, he competes on pucks really hard and he's been a silent leader for us. I think everyone sees how hard he plays and how hard he works and we follow. He's been our catalyst and he's done everything we could ask of him, so he's been great."

Strome thinks the Bread Man should be in the MVP conversation as well.

"Yeah, especially if we get in the playoffs here," he said. "It would be hard not to consider him. His numbers are ridiculous. I've seen some stats about Jaromir Jagr and some ex-Rangers that have put up similar numbers to him. To be in that category is pretty special. 

"You guys have seen it firsthand, the way he acts and how much fun he has doing it I think just rubs off on everyone, too. In such a serious season and such a serious business we're in, I think to have a guy like him, he's doing his leg kick and he's lightening the mood a little bit, that stuff is contagious. That's part of his personality and part of what makes him a great player."

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Zack Smith feels fortunate after coming 'millimeter' away from season-ending injury

zack_smith_usa_today.jpg
USA Today

Zack Smith feels fortunate after coming 'millimeter' away from season-ending injury

Zack Smith knew immediately something was wrong. Not because of the pain but because of what happened.

In the final minute of the second period against Vancouver on Feb. 12, Smith had his left hand stepped on by a Canucks player. The television broadcast didn't pick it up, but Smith quickly threw his glove off and went straight to the locker room fearing the worst.

"It wasn't a very painful thing when it happened, it just happened and I was like, 'That's not good,'" Smith said. "You feel a skate blade step on your hand, you know it's not going to look good. The trainers said they couldn't believe there wasn't blood on the glove because I just threw it off right away and went to the bench. I was pretty worried there for a bit, and then right away doctors were able to tell me, 'It's going to be fine. Just a few stitches.' Just a short time of panic."

Smith did not return to the game, but that was the least of his worries. And the Blackhawks, who weren't exactly sure what happened.

"Yeah, scary thing," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I didn’t see it so when he came off I thought he broke his wrist or something, we didn’t really know in the moment. But when you hear what happened and see the cut, it’s not a good situation. So, obviously happy that it’s not too serious."

It could've been much worse for Smith, who practiced with the team at morning skate on Wednesday and is inching closer to a return. He was close to a potential long-term injury but is now back on the ice less than a week after the injury occurred.

"It was probably a millimeter away from being the end of my season," Smith said. "I got very lucky. A couple of stitches and a few days off is all it's taken."

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