Blackhawks' Rocky Wirtz on the passing of NHL great Gordie Howe


Blackhawks' Rocky Wirtz on the passing of NHL great Gordie Howe

By: Brenna Carberry  

Gordie Howe, the talented and tough hockey great who set scoring records that stood for decades, has died. The man who will forever be known as 'Mr. Hockey' was 88 years old. 

His passing is not only a loss for the Detroit Red Wings, but for the entire sport of hockey. Chicago Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz today released the following statement on the passing of hockey legend Gordie Howe:

“The Chicago Blackhawks offer their heartfelt condolences to Gordie’s family and the entire Detroit Red Wings organization. There is no greater rivalry in hockey than the one between the Red Wings and the Blackhawks, and Gordie was a large part of that. The relationship between our family and Gordie is three generations long, and we are grateful for what he gave to our organization, the National Hockey League and the sport of hockey. There’s a reason why he is called “Mr. Hockey,” because of what he did for the game, and we stand with the entire sports world in mourning his loss.”

Renowned as one of the best hockey players of all time, Howe's blend of talent and grit helped him win four Stanley Cup trophies with the Detroit Red Wings, six Hart Trophies as NHL MVP, and six Ross Trophies as the league's top scorer. The Hockey Hall of Famer spent 32 seasons playing professional hockey - 25 with the Red Wings - and set NHL marks with 801 goals and 1,850 points that held up until Gretzky came along. 

He was both a finesse player and a brutal fighter on the ice, using his magnificent slap shot or throwing elbows to get even with opponents. He was so famously fierce that a "Gordie Howe Hat Trick" became synonymous with the combination of having a goal, an assist and a fight in one game.

Howe's legendary NHL career ended in 1980 at the age of 52. His name sits at the top of lists of hockey greats alongside players like Bobby Orr, Maurice Richard, Mario Lemieux, Guy Lafleur, Bobby Hull and Gretzky. Howe's impact on the game of hockey can be seen both on and off the ice, as his entrance into the NHL helped convert the sport from a Canadian game into a North American game. 

Take a look at some of Mr. Hockey's legendary career facts:

Gordie Howe

• Born March 31, 1928 

• Career numbers: 
o 1767 games played (most all-time) 
o 801 goals (2nd all-time) 
o 1049 assists (9th all-time) 
o 1850 points (4th all-time) 

• Inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972 

• Playoff Career: 
o 157 games played 
o 68 goals 
o 92 assists 
o 160 points 

• Known as "Mr. Hockey" 

• Won 4 Stanley Cups with Red Wings (1950, 1952, 1954, 1955) 

• Won 6 Hart Trophies (2nd all-time) and 6 Art Ross Trophies (T-2nd all-time) 

• Played in a record 23 All-Star games 

• 22 seasons with 20+ goals (most all-time) 

• Played 25 seasons for Detroit Red Wings from 1946 (age 18) to 1971 (age 43) 

• Played in WHA from 1973 to 1979 (Houston Aeros & New England Whalers) 

• Returned to NHL for the 1979-80 season at age 51 (finished at age 52). Tallied 41 points and 15 goals that season for the Hartford Whalers. He is still the oldest player to play in the NHL, playing his final game at age 52 and 11 days old. 
o Began career during Harry Truman administration and retired for good during Jimmy Carter's. Only player to play in 5 different decades. 

• Ironically, Howe only recorded a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” twice in his career 
o A “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” includes a goal, an assist and a fight in the same game  

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

The wait is almost over.

After missing nearly 10 months with a concussion, Corey Crawford said he expects to start on Thursday when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center. An official decision will come following the team's morning skate.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. ... It was a pretty long process. But I think the most important thing was not to rush anything. When I finally was out, it got to a point where I wasn’t in shape to play and it was time to rest and it’s unfortunate it took a lot longer than I would’ve liked. 

"It’s been long, but finally, just to get back and be practicing with the team has meant a lot. It’s good to get to this point now when you’re really close to playing. Practices have been great, been getting timing a little bit more and getting up to speed and reading shots and all that, so it'll be nice to finally get in one."

Crawford's last appearance in an NHL game was Dec. 23, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils when he allowed three goals on seven shots in 13:22 of action before getting pulled. So of course, emotions will naturally be running high, especially in front of the hometown crowd.

"I'm sure I'll be a little anxious getting into it," Crawford said. "Some nerves. But we'll see. We'll wait until the morning, but I'm definitely excited I can tell you that."

It's obviously terrific news for the Blackhawks, who have picked up eight out of a possible 10 points to start the season and are getting their two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie back between the pipes. It's been a long time coming, and Crawford is coming back into a healthy situation where the Blackhawks are in a good spot in the standings.

"It's great news, I'm sure it'll be exciting for him exciting for our team, exciting for our fans and the organization as well," Patrick Kane said. "It’s probably a good situation all around. Cam [Ward] has done a great job of playing in the net so far. Crow is really good in practice right now, so I’m sure he’s itching to get back, too. We’ve had a good start here. It’s something we want to keep going, and I’m sure him coming back on home ice, in front of our crowd, will be a fun one for him and for our team."

There's no doubting how important Crawford is the team and organization. While there may be a little bit of rust early on, the Blackhawks are expecting him to look like his old self.

"He means a lot to the team," Quenneville said. "We felt last year was a good example of how important he was and how well he was playing for us, as well. We’ve gotten off to a decent start and he was a big factor in it. We know that goaltending is such a big part of the team and your success a lot of nights depends on him and his consistency’s always been in place.

"But he looks good in the net. He’s been off for a long, long time. Is there rust? Do we expect rust? I think the way he’s competing and practicing and finding pucks, he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. So we’re looking forward to him getting in there and getting comfortable and how he’s feeling going forward will dictate a lot of the decisions about him going back in."