Blackhawks

Recapping Joel Quenneville's homecoming and a memorable night of celebration in Chicago

Recapping Joel Quenneville's homecoming and a memorable night of celebration in Chicago

There was a special buzz around the United Center on Tuesday. A different kind of atmosphere than usual. 

The Blackhawks had won five in a row and 11 of their past 15 to climb back into the Western Conference playoff race and have been playing, by far, their best hockey of the season over the last month. The Florida Panthers were also riding a five-game winning streak and had won 12 of their past 16 to move into a top 3 spot in the Atlantic Division.

This was a big matchup in the standings for both teams before the NHL All-Star break and bye week because they each have to sit on this result for nine straight days. That itself was enough for the intensity level to be heightened.

But Tuesday was ultimately a night of celebration in Chicago.

It marked the highly-anticipated return of Joel Quenneville, who was back at the United Center for the first time since being let go on Nov. 6, 2018. He arrived at the arena just after 4 p.m. with a handful of camera crews documenting his every move and had to be directed to the visiting coaches room after nearly forgetting where it was exactly located.

Quenneville caught up with just about everyone you can think of before making his way to the visiting NBA locker room because it was the only area large enough to fit all the media members for his pregame press conference. He spent a majority of the 15 minutes reminiscing about how special his 10-plus year tenure in Chicago was and did so with a huge smile on his face.

"It all brings back a special time in our lives and a special time with the city going through some amazing runs that are so memorable," Quenneville said. "So many people shared it and so many people played a hand in it and were responsible for it. Was very fortunate to have that type of career time here in Chicago and shared by a lot of people and feeling that today."

Before officially welcoming back Quenneville, the Blackhawks honored Patrick Kane with a special pregame ceremony after he became the 90th player in NHL history to record 1,000 points and fourth to do so in franchise history. It was a perfect way to kick off the night, and it set the bar high for the next ovation.

After the first TV timeout, the Blackhawks aired a 60-second video tribute for Quenneville that included some of his best bench reactions and celebrations from their playoff victories and three Stanley Cup runs. It was impossible to encapsulate what he's meant to the organization over a one-minute span, but the more important part was that Blackhawks fans finally got a chance to thank Quenneville for everything he did by giving him a deafening ovation that seemingly never ended.

"That felt unbelievable," Quenneville said. "It was a great feeling. Captured some special moments in the building when the enthusiasm and the excitement and the noise and Kaner’s starting the game off like that, and the building was rocking. It felt like a different game. Had some importance to it. It was special. It was kind of like saying thank you to me and I was thanking them, and it was all good. Felt great. That was certainly a memorable ovation I’m thankful for."

Seeing Quenneville behind the visiting bench was going to be strange for everyone. The fans, the media, the organization. And even the players.

"You just think things are going to stay the same forever and it’s weird when things change and guys go to other teams," Jonathan Toews said. "Coach Q just felt like a staple with this organization, this city as well."

In fitting fashion, the Blackhawks rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the second period by scoring three of the next four goals to make it an exciting finish. But it was the Panthers who prevailed on Q night.

To cap off the memorable evening, Quenneville addressed a large herd of reporters one final time before exiting the arena. But not before making his way to Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Toews and giving each of them hugs to show his love and appreciation for His Guys.

"When I left here, the bitterness that you think you might have leaving from here would have been prevalent," Quenneville said. "But I didn’t have any of that type of feeling. The memories were too special, and recapturing it here immediately, you can have the same sense of why it was like that. And show a lot of appreciation for everyone here. It’s a great place to play, special fans, fun building and great organization. So thanks."

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NHL to potentially discuss emergency goalie rules at general managers meetings

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USA Today

NHL to potentially discuss emergency goalie rules at general managers meetings

The NHL general managers meetings are set to begin next week and one of the topics on the docket to be discussed may be emergency backup goalie (EBUG) procedures. The recent interest in reevaluating EBUG rules come after 42-year-old David Ayres suited up to play for the Carolina Hurricanes in their 6-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs this past weekend.

The issue of EBUGs comes up so rarely that NHL GMs don’t typically give it much thought. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly spoke about EBUGs this Tuesday during the Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets game.

“It's something we've given some consideration to over the years. As recently as last year, we discussed [it] with the general managers. It happens very, very rarely, but when it happens, it obviously raises everybody's attention to the issue and whether there are fixes that need to be made to that particular issue,” he explained. “We have to work with the [NHL] Players' Association. Who's a player? Who's not a player? What qualifies all of that? But obviously we want what's best for the game, and we want to make sure people aren't putting themselves in danger by playing goal in a National Hockey League game. ... So that's obviously something we have to continue to work through."

Currently, the 2019-20 NHL official rules state, “if both listed goalkeepers are incapacitated, that team shall be entitled to dress and play any available goalkeeper who is eligible."

Ayres drives the Zamboni at the Mattamy Athletic Center in Toronto and frequently practices with the Leafs. Ayres stepped in the net after Hurricanes goalies James Reimer and Petr Mrazek were both injured. He made eight saves and is the oldest goalie in NHL history to make his regular season debut.

The Blackhawks had their own instance of needing an EBUG in 2018 against the Winnipeg Jets. Scott Foster, a then-36-year-old accountant stepped in the net at the United Center after Corey Crawford and Collin Delia were sidelined by injury. Foster saved all seven shots on goal, making him the first EBUG to make a save and a hometown hero in Chicago. 

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How Blackhawks are trying to stay upbeat despite roster subtractions

How Blackhawks are trying to stay upbeat despite roster subtractions

ST. LOUIS — The NHL trade deadline is a unique time of year for fans because it serves as a chance to get a read on what the management group feels about your respective team's current state.

There are the buyers who feel they're good enough to make a deep postseason run, the sellers who admit they're looking more towards the future and the ones who stand pat because they're somewhere in between. But to what degree is telling as well.

For example, the Columbus Blue Jackets went for it all last season by acquiring Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and two other players in exchange for a roster player, three prospects and seven draft picks that included a pair of first- and second-rounders, fully knowing all four players could walk away for nothing in the summer. And they did.

Last season, the Blackhawks stood pat. They didn’t have many assets to sell, but they were knocking on the door of a playoff spot and decided to let it ride.

This season was a different story.

Erik Gustafsson and Robin Lehner were traded in separate deals for asset management purposes, and intentionally or not, the message was sent that the Blackhawks weren't good enough to keep the group together for a legitimate playoff push. Despite how deflating the roster subtractions could make them feel, the Blackhawks are trying to maintain a positive attitude for the remainder of the season.

"No letdown, no taking any steps back," Jonathan Toews said before Tuesday’s 6-5 loss to the Blues. "Stay on your routine, stay on your commitment, keeping that upbeat feel in the locker room and going out there having fun, working hard and putting your best foot forward [for] a win and getting two points every night, so that's all we can do."  

Head coach Jeremy Colliton commended his group for how they reacted to the outside distractions leading up to the trade deadline. He expects them to respond after it.

"It's our job to compete at the highest level," Colliton said. "I give the guys credit, those two games before the deadline we responded really well to the uncertainty. Pulling a player at the last second and they played hard, and that's what we expect going forward. The team-first priorities at all times and sticking together and playing to the end no matter what. If we do that, we'll get our results and let's see what happens."

It would take a miraculous run for the Blackhawks to make the playoffs at this point after falling below .500 based on points percentage following Tuesday's loss to the Blues. But they're not waving the white flag just yet, even though it would psychologically be easy to pack it in.

"You always want to be in the hunt and just fighting for a playoff spot," Patrick Kane said. "Obviously we'd have to go on a pretty big run to make the playoffs this year, but just take it a game at a time here. We've been playing pretty well as a team to be honest with you. I know the results haven't been there, but we've been playing pretty good, we've been playing some tough teams. I think if we continue on this turn we're probably going to get better results down the stretch."  

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

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