Blackhawks

Brad Richards ready to make new Cup memories with Blackhawks

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Brad Richards ready to make new Cup memories with Blackhawks

TAMPA, Fla. – Former Tampa Bay captain Dave Andreychuk talked of the 2004 Stanley Cup-winning Lightning, players from that team arriving to watch Game 1 tomorrow.

“Yeah, I heard that. I didn’t get a call yet,” Brad Richards said to laughs.

Richards has been to Tampa plenty of times since he was traded from the Lightning to the Dallas Stars in 2008. But for Richards, who helped the Lightning win that 2004 Cup and who won the Conn Smythe Trophy for his individual efforts, to have the chance at another Cup – this time with the Blackhawks – and to see his former teammates is something special.

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“A few guys came in for my 1,000th game this year in Chicago. I got to see Vinny (Lecavalier) last night with our kids together, which was a totally different feeling than 10-15 years ago,” Richards said. “Just so many great memories.”

Andreychuk said the Blackhawks, who are making their third Cup appearance in the past six seasons, were smart in getting Richards.

“A great signing by the Chicago Blackhawks to bring in a guy that just loves to play and loves to compete,” he said. “I’ve been watching the playoffs and I’ve been in contact with him. He’s excited to be here, knowing that his last Cup was in this building. But he’s another one of those guys that it’s living proof that it’s hard to get back here again. For him, he’s going to have to seize that opportunity.”

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Richards signed with Chicago last July 1, not long after he and his former New York Rangers teammates lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014 Final. After playing such a huge role in Tampa, Dallas and New York, on the ice and in the locker room, Richards needed time to find his niche with the Blackhawks.

“I don’t want to say it’s an intimidating team but it’s a tough locker room to walk into. They’ve done so much winning and you try to find your role. They have so many offensive guys, not like the other teams I’ve played on where you get a lot of minutes on the power play or a lot of offensive minutes. It’s a lot more spread out here,” he said. “It took a while to figure out where I could fit in.”

Richards found great November/December success when teamed with Patrick Kane. The two were together again most of this postseason until coach Joel Quenneville went to his usual late-playoff move in moving Kane to Jonathan Toews’ line. Be it the previous combination or the one now, where he’s with Bryan Bickell and Marian Hossa, Richards has been steady this postseason. He’s gotten at least a point in six of his last seven games, including two assists in the Blackhawks’ Game 7 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.

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“He got a chance to play with Kaner and took off. It looked like there was a little magic there, looked like he got more quickness to his game, more puck possession,” Quenneville said. “I think he’s had a real good second part of the season. Coming into the playoffs, he’s been real good for us.”

Bickell said he’s seen Richards grow more comfortable as the months passed.

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“Over the course of the regular season, from changing from where he was to coming here, he had some ups and downs when he wasn’t happy. But for the last few months he’s been excited,” Bickell said. “He knows what it takes to get the goal and we need him. He’s a guy who’s going to get offensive chances and hopefully me and Hoss can help him out.”

Richards won’t get a chance to see many of the 2004 Lightning players coming in for Wednesday’s game. Obviously, he’s a little busy right now. He would love to make some new Cup memories with the Blackhawks. The ones he made with the Lightning will always be with him.

“No matter what happens this week, can never take anything away from the 2004 team,” Richards said. “I’ll never try to compare runs; they’re all special. It’s great to see those guys no matter what’s going on.”

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.

Dagger...

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.