Blackhawks of the past opening doors for the future


Blackhawks of the past opening doors for the future

When Cliff Koroll and the late Keith Magnuson decided to form the Blackhawks Alumni Association, it was originally to help assist fellow former players in need.

Then they decided to accept applications and award a college scholarship to a deserving local high school hockey player through the year-round fund-raising done by the BAA. That first scholarship was for 1,500 and went to Tom Dillon.

25 years later, Dillon now organizes the annual luncheon honoring that years recipients, and the Class of 2012 and the All-State team were recognized Monday at the Hyatt Lodge at McDonalds Campus in Oak Brook. Most of the current Blackhawks players were there, many alumni and coach Joel Quenneville as well as the bulk of the front office, including Chairman Rocky Wirtz and President & CEO John McDonough.

We had 71 applications this year, said Koroll, the Associations President. Ten of us went through all the applications. We had a scoring system, and these three kids were way above everybody else.

Congratulations to Laura Brennan, Jacob Wachlin and Stephanie Jackson.

We got another three great kids two females, which shows that women are slowly taking over here, Koroll smiled. I think that gives us eight or nine girls thatve been recipients.

The decision process is based on five categories, with each applicant receiving up to ten points in each category by the ten panelists. Theyre judged based on need, their grades, community involvement, character (through letters of recommendation) and essays they write on what hockey means to them and why they feel theyre deserving. Koroll says four of the top six applicants were females, a statement as to how far girls hockey has come in Illinois.

Im really excited to be part of the organization. When I got the call, I just kept saying thank you over and over again because I didnt know what else to say, said Brennan, who attends Oak Park-River Forest High School but plays defense for Fenwick and has yet to decide where to attend college. (Hockeys) definitely shaped me as a person. Socially, Ive met a lot of friends through hockey, people Ill never forget. But its also helped me become a better thinker. Just playing hockey forces me to make decisions faster and think more critically about things. Its given me opportunities to meet new people, try new things and given me the confidence to do that.

Wachlin was similarly excited upon finding out he got the scholarship.

I was just so pumped (when receiving the phone call), said Wachlin, who is home-schooled in Arlington Heights and plays left wing for PREP (a team formed from students from Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Elk Grove and Prospect). It was just so exciting to get the phone call, I was so pumped after seeing so many Hawks games. Its just cool to get helped out for school by such a cool organization.

Wachlin wants to pursue mechanical engineering at either Michigan Tech or M.I.T., while Jackson, who plays center for the Naper Valley Warriors, plans on attending Illinois and playing for its club team while studying animal sciences for veterinary medicine.

When they called, I didnt get the news. They called my mom, and when she told me, I didnt believe her at first, said Jackson. The next day, I got about 20 emails from people in the (Blackhawks) organization congratulating me.

The Alumni Association has now awarded 82 scholarships, providing more than 1 million worth of education to its recipients.

What Blackhawks can learn from defending Stanley Cup champion Blues


What Blackhawks can learn from defending Stanley Cup champion Blues

ST. LOUIS — From 2008-17, the Blackhawks were the gold standard of hockey. Teams across the NHL tried copying their blueprint after nine consecutive playoff berths, five Conference Final appearances and three Stanley Cup wins.

But for the last two-plus seasons, the Blackhawks have been in foreign territory where they can no longer sleepwalk their way to a playoff spot. It's become an uphill battle just to stay in the race.

While there's a lot of hockey left in the season, the Blackhawks are at risk of missing the playoffs for the third straight year and they’re desperately searching for answers. Ironically, they could learn a lot from their arch rival St. Louis Blues.

The Blackhawks played the role of a big brother and bullied the Blues in the Central Division for years but watched them hoist the Stanley Cup last season for the first time in franchise history by overcoming ridiculous odds of sitting in last place on Jan. 3. The Blackhawks find themselves in a similar position, spiraling towards the basement of the Western Conference and trying to salvage a season in which they had legitimate playoff expectations.

The Blues know exactly what they're going through and how difficult it is to stay positive during those dark times.

"It's never easy, no doubt about it, especially when there's guys in that locker room that have won as many Cups as they have and know what it takes to win," Blues forward Brayden Schenn said of the Blackhawks' situation. "If you get the feeling sometimes of it's not coming easy ... I think obviously they're good enough pros in that locker room to find ways to keep positive and believe that they're going to turn it around."

When you go through long stretches without winning, it can feel like a chore coming to the rink every day. And when you're not at the rink, it's difficult for players not to take that frustration home and let it creep into your everyday life. That's where the Blackhawks are at right now.

"It's all part of the job, really," Schenn said. "It's not going to be, if you ask those guys in that locker room if they think they're going to win a Stanley Cup every year that they're going to play, I think they feel very fortunate to definitely win three of them but I don't think you come to the rink, you don't want to bring a negative attitude to the rink, no doubt about it, you want to be positive and upbeat and find ways to work through it."

The Blues' path to the Stanley Cup isn't exactly one teams are looking to emulate. Nobody plans on being at the bottom of the standings around Christmas. But it gives the clubs that are some hope that it can be done.

"It's not going to happen every year where the last place team comes out and dominates the second half and wins the Cup," Schenn said. "But I guess we showed the league and people that it's definitely possible."

Every team that's on the outside looking in will try to rally around the fact the Blues never stopped fighting even when a playoff berth seemed so far away last season. But the Blackhawks have to take it one day at a time and simply focus on what they can control or it's not going to matter.

"They showed it's possible but ultimately we have our own situation," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "They improved so that's what we need to do."

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Blackhawks won't loan Kirby Dach to Canada for 2020 World Juniors


Blackhawks won't loan Kirby Dach to Canada for 2020 World Juniors

ST. LOUIS — The Blackhawks confirmed on Saturday that rookie forward Kirby Dach will remain in the NHL and not be loaned to Team Canada for the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship, which begins Dec. 26 and runs through Jan. 5 in the Czech Republic.

The Blackhawks weren't expected to send him, but their recent slide in the standings reignited the discussion as Team Canada was preparing to finalize its roster. Dach, who was taken No. 3 overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, would have played a significant role for his country, but the Blackhawks felt it was better for his development to stay in Chicago.

"Obviously, it was an opportunity that he had but he's playing really well," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I think he's getting better and better and his minutes are going up steadily and there's an opportunity for more if he continues to improve, so we didn't really want to lose that momentum. He's got an opportunity to take a bigger role as we go here and hopefully he can."

Dach has been a bright spot for the Blackhawks this season. He has 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 26 games and is averaging 12:03 of ice time. But he's pointless in his last 11 and probably could've used a reboot by going up against his peers at the World Juniors and playing in all situations.

After all, the Blackhawks sent defenseman prospect Henri Jokiharju to do exactly that last season and he helped lead Team Finland to a gold medal by eating up top pairing minutes and serving in a leadership role.

While he may be bummed about not getting that same opportunity, Dach understands the privilege it is to play in the NHL at 18 years old and that's where his mind is at.

"Obviously World Juniors is pretty big in Canada and growing up it's always a thing you dream of doing," said Dach, who won gold with Team Canada at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and recorded seven points (two goals, five assists) in the tournament. "Growing up I remember the Jordan Eberle goal against Team Russia and that's the golden moment that most Canadian kids will remember, is the goal he scored and they want to be that guy. To represent your country is a huge honor. But at the same time, I've been focused on being with the Blackhawks and helping them win each and every night. Obviously timing didn't work out, but I'm happy to be here. It's the NHL and it's the best league in the world, so I'm excited for the opportunity that I have here and to keep producing.

"It's the management's choice and whatever they say goes, right? So you don't want to upset the boss. For me, it's just about playing good and feeling good on the ice, and obviously I've got a good coaching staff and support staff around me that is helping develop me here. If I was able to go back for the World Juniors, it would be a huge honor, but I've played for Team Canada in the past and it's a fun time."

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