Alumni game rekindles Blackhawks-North Stars memories


Alumni game rekindles Blackhawks-North Stars memories

MINNEAPOLIS – Troy Murray was taking face-offs against Dennis Maruk on Saturday evening in a much less contentious manner than when the two squared off during their NHL playing days.

“That’s a guy I went head to head against for years with the Minnesota North Stars, and we just kind of laughed out there on the ice,” Murray said. "We had a great time.”

For the Blackhawks and North Stars alumni, Saturday night’s game, as well as Friday night’s gathering at former Blackhawks/North Stars defenseman Tom Reid’s restaurant, were great times to reminisce about those heated rivalry days.

“In the old Norris division, we’d play these guys eight times then you play them in the playoffs again and the preseason. It was no wonder we hated each other because we played each other so much,” said Steve Konroyd. “Today, everyone wanted to make sure nobody got hurt and everyone had a good time, and that’s what happened.”

Indeed it looked like everyone had a great time in the alumni game, which the North Stars won 6-4. From those who played in those venom-filled Norris Division games to those who were part of a newer generation for each team, it was an enjoyable day.

“It was a real treat,” said former Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers. “From the amount of fans that there were to the atmosphere, to meeting guys I watched play growing up and to get a chance to play against them – like Brian Bellows and Bobby Smith – it’s a real neat experience and a real brotherhood. It’ll be an unbelievable atmosphere for the [Blackhawks and Wild] tomorrow.”

There were some pretty nice plays out there, too. Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite made two great stops in the third period, one a stacked-pad stop and another a sprawling stick stop on Mike Modano.

“Some of those guys can still play, like Modano. He’s still flying out there,” Waite said. “I was pretty happy to make that save on him.”

Modano thought he had Waite beat.

“Flopping around, I thought I had him down and out. I’m just gonna lay it on the ice and that stick came back. I’m like, ‘oh,’” Modano said with a smile. “How do you not get it off the ice a little bit?”

[RELATED: Outdoor games enjoyable for both new, veteran players]

Murray’s big moment came when he scored on a penalty shot, beating goaltender Gilles Meloche.

It was funny because Gilles said, ‘I was giving you the five-hole,’” Murrsay said. “I just figured I could hold onto it, out wait him and it worked.”

The alumni game meant something to everyone who participated. All were happy to reminisce and see each other. They were thrilled to represent their former teams. And for some, reliving those glorious yet vehement Norris Division days in a kinder, gentler manner made the weekend.

“The stories that were going around [Friday] night… were just incredible. To hear their side of the stories of the rivalries that we knewinside our room, they felt the same way. They had to make sure they were prepared and they didn’t sleep the night before the games; we didn’t either,” Murray said. “We just went back and talked about the good-old days, the way the game was played. You realize for the guys, that’s the way it works most of the time: the guys you hate paying against are some of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.”

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread:

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

When the Blackhawks drafted Jonathan Toews third overall in 2006 and Patrick Kane with the No. 1 pick the following year, it was a sign that the dark skies were clearing in Chicago. Things really started to change when Rocky Wirtz took over as chairman following the death of his father Bill in September of 2007, and one of the first decisions he made was to televise all 82 games.

The fans were coming back.

For only the second time in 11 years, the Blackhawks finished above .500 in 2007-08 but missed the playoffs by three points, a season in which Kane won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.

The following year Joel Quenneville took over as head coach after only three games to provide some coaching experience behind the bench for a young team on the rise. It resulted in a 104-point season and ended in a Conference Finals berth at the hands of the arch-rival Detroit Red Wings in five games.

The Blackhawks were ready to make that step into championship contenders. They just needed someone to put them over the edge.

Enter Marian Hossa.

On July 1 of 2009, he committed to the Blackhawks for 12 years worth $62.8 million. He bought into the long-term vision and wanted to be a part of something special for many years to come.

Was he ever.

In his first game as a member of the Blackhawks, Hossa scored two goals in a 7-2 road victory against San Jose after missing the first month and a half of the season with a shoulder injury. It was at that moment where you saw what kind of powerhouse the Blackhawks could be and would become with a full lineup and future Hall of Fame winger added to a mixture of franchise-changing players scratching the surface.

Fast forward to Game 5 of the 2010 quarterfinals. You know how it goes. Series is tied 2-2. The Blackhawks trail 4-3 late in the third period. Extra attacker is on. How many times have we seen this? The Blackhawks were surely going to find a way to tie it up ... and then Hossa is sent to the box with 1:03 to play in regulation. A five-minute major boarding penalty.


Not so fast. 

Patrick Kane went on to score arguably the biggest goal in Blackhawks history, a shorthanded one that evened it up with 13.6 seconds to go. United Center is up for grabs. But there are still four minutes left to kill off on the penalty once overtime starts, which Hossa once called "the longest four minutes of my life." 

In a span of nine seconds following the penalty kill, Hossa jumped on the ice from the box, darted straight for the net and buried home what was the second-biggest goal in franchise history to put the Blackhawks up 3-2 in the series. Two nights later Hossa assisted on three goals and the Blackhawks eliminated the Nashville Predators in their barn.

The rest is history.

Who knows if the Blackhawks rally to win that series if they don't tie it up or win it in overtime. Who knows if they break through the next year. Who knows if that core group even remains together. The course of the franchise could've changed that night.

Instead, Hossa was handed the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career on June 9, 2010 from Jonathan Toews, who couldn't give it to him fast enough after he came up on the losing end in consecutive appearances with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings in 2008 and 2009.

Hossa would add two more titles to his résumé with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015, which almost certainly locked up his legacy as one of the all-time greats and his eventual next stop: The Hockey Hall of Fame. The wait was worth it.

"I was hoping to get one coming to Chicago and now I’ve got three," Hossa said following the 2015 Stanley Cup win. "What a feeling." 

The Blackhawks don't win three Stanley Cups without Hossa, who will go down as arguably the greatest free-agent signing in Chicago sports history.

On behalf of the city of Chicago: Thank you, 81.