Michal Kempny is learning English but still feels more comfortable with an interpreter. But when asked about his bouncing goal in the Blackhawks’ victory over St. Louis on Saturday night, he didn’t need help explaining it.
“It was lucky,” he said with a laugh.
Kempny is adjusting to his new language. He’s adapting to hockey over here pretty well, too.
The defenseman, who’s expected to be part of the Blackhawks’ defensive rotation this season, scored his first preseason goal in the Blackhawks’ 4-0 decision over the Blues. Kempny had a strong night overall, playing just under 22 minutes and tying for a team-high five shots (with Patrick Kane). Kempny spent about 9 1/2 of those minutes on the Blackhawks’ power play and penalty kill.
For the Blackhawks, who struggled with depth defensively last season, Kempny should be a welcome addition. The biggest question was how long it would take him to adjust to the smaller ice surface. Starting his September at the World Cup of Hockey helped in that respect. General manager Stan Bowman, who was at World Cup as Team North America’s assistant GM, saw Kempny play very well during the tournament.
“For a player like Michal the biggest adjustment is going to be a little bit different style of hockey,” Bowman said. “I mean, hockey is hockey. It’s the same everywhere. But the smaller rink is the biggest thing. The dimension of the ice, you have to do things quicker over here. You tend to have a little more time in Europe. Obviously his first exposure to the smaller ice was against the best players in the world. I thought he did very well getting acclimated. Certainly [Team Czech Republic] used him on their team quite a bit. In almost all the games, he played a lot. Looking back, it was a good experience.”
Kempny’s been here for about a week now. He’s getting used to Chicago and his new teammates, some of whom he’s been watching for a while now.
“Just being here with them, Kane and [Artemi] Panarin, it’s a great moment, great honor and I’m enjoying being in the same locker room with them,” Kempny said through interpreter Igor Alfimov. “Those are players I’ve been following since I was a kid. Now I’m going to be spending time with them and learn something from them.”
Kempny is like Panarin in one respect: he’s a seasoned hockey player who’s just adapting to the North American style and ice. Panarin adjusted quickly. The Blackhawks hope Kempny can do the same.
“I’m really glad I’m here. Enjoying every moment,” Kempny said via Alfimov. “I feel better every day.”