GLENDALE, Ariz. — Antoine Vermette only played four percent of his career regular season and playoff games with the Blackhawks, but a large portion of his NHL legacy was forged during his brief time in Chicago.
Vermette scored three game-winning goals in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games last season, becoming an important piece to the Blackhawks’ third championship in the last six years. Now in his 14th year in the NHL, and back with the Arizona Coyotes, he’ll face the Blackhawks Tuesday night at Gila River Arena for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup.
“It’s tough to win,” Vermette said. “Chicago’s fans are pretty lucky the last couple years. It’s a very competitive league and it’s tough. You see guys, great players, great careers and never had a chance, not even come close to winning one. It’s tough, and that’s what makes it even more special to put your hand on it and accomplish it.
“It’s the ultimate sign of accomplishment at this level, it’s something we’ve been dreaming about since you’re a kid.”
Vermette lives in the Phoenix area and played five years here before being traded to Chicago last season. He said he considered returning to the Blackhawks over the summer, but the pull of coming back home to try to push the Coyotes’ organization forward was too great. He said he didn’t plan to head back to Arizona as soon as he was dealt away, but things worked out that way once the chaos of winning the Stanley Cup died down.
“Scored big goals for us, very timely goals for us,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “That line was effective as the series progressed in the Anaheim series and against Tampa Bay, as well. Gave us some more depth and experience and ultimately a great memory.”
What Vermette said sticks out the most from his quick tenure in Chicago was the winning culture in the team’s dressing room. No matter how much adversity hit, Vermette noted how the expectations never changed for a team that’s been wildly successful over the last seven seasons.
And Vermette had something to do with that success.
“We knew what we were supposed to do and obviously the expectation that came with it,” Vermette said. “It was a special group over there, top to bottom. But I think the expectation is always there and guys are expecting a lot from them, and it starts from everyone within the organization. And there’s a sense also that goes with it, strong confidence as a group, you know you can do it and eventually you’re going to find a way to do it, and we did.”