Blackhawks

Bryan Bickell feeling comfortable one month after retirement

Bryan Bickell feeling comfortable one month after retirement

Physically, Bryan Bickell’s decision to retire from hockey was pretty much made for him. Months after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis Bickell battled back enough to finish the season as he started it, as part of the Carolina Hurricanes’ lineup. But it was tough getting to that point.

Mentally dealing with the retirement decision, however, was another story.

“I’m sure you guys saw the video,” said Bickell referring to the emotional interview he did after playing with the Hurricanes on April 6, two days before he announced his upcoming retirement. “That’s the day before I talked to [my wife] Amanda and thought, ‘This is it.’

“We knew it was going to come,” Bickell continued. “Playing normally is tough. Now playing with what I have, it was tough to [get to] the point where I got back and finished up the way I wanted. It was tough to decide to move on. But for me and my health, and to be around my kids, was the most important thing.”

It’s been about a month since that announcement and Bickell is in a better place. The former Blackhawks forward was in Chicago on Thursday night for the NHL Go Beyond Competition, which benefits the Inner-City Education (ICE) Program. Bickell has come to terms with the end of his hockey career and is feeling much better these days.

“I’m feeling a lot better now that I’m not playing hockey. Slowing the heart rate down, slowing the body down and slowing the mind down definitely helps me feel a lot better. From the get-go to a month afterward and then working my way back, I got better,” he said on Thursday night. “I feel comfortable now. I can do a lot of things that, that month, I couldn’t really do. To move on and enjoy and hang out with the kids and do things like this [Go Beyond Competition], I’m looking forward to it.”

Bickell kept his eye on what his former Blackhawks teammates were doing, from the end of the regular season to their abrupt first-round playoff exit.

“Nashville was underrated. I know with their season they just got in [to the playoffs], but they’re a good team. I don’t say Chicago took them lightly but they didn’t find their game,” Bickell said. “I was watching the Hawks over the course of the year, what they were doing. It just didn’t carry over. With a handful of games where they didn’t matter in the standings, I don’t know if it rubbed off going into the playoff but they didn’t find that next step.

"But you can see what Nashville’s doing to St. Louis. They could be the real deal. They could be the team coming out of the west. For the Hawks to get swept, it’s definitely a hard one to swallow. But they’ll bounce back.”

Bickell and his family are still in Raleigh, N.C., but will be heading back to Canada soon. He’ll still be doing plenty with The Bryan & Amanda Bickell Foundation, which helps rescue abused pit bulls. The foundation will soon launch an MS-service dog program to help those suffering from the illness.

As for what else he may do in the future, Bickell said he’ll worry about that later. Right now, he’s just enjoying some peace.

“I’m not really looking forward to anything other than relaxing, enjoying some time and doing nothing, really. Not waking up and having a schedule, not having to be at practice and work out and do all that,” Bickell said. “I’ll just take a step back and relax.”

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

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Detroit Red Wings

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

The Blackhawks recalled No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach from his AHL conditioning stint on Friday night after he appeared in three games with the Rockford IceHogs. He missed the first week of training camp with a concussion and the organization wanted him to get a taste of the pro action and back up to speed after not playing in any preseason games, either.

"I enjoyed the experience there," Dach said. "I had a lot of fun. Got to see a couple buddies. It was good for me to get down there and get some pro games under my belt and just feel what the pace is going to be like. It'll be another step up here, but I feel good and I feel like I'm ready to go."

Whether Dach makes his NHL debut on Sunday against the Washington Capitals won't be revealed by head coach Jeremy Colliton until after morning skate on Sunday. But where does he fit into the lineup going forward?

The Blackhawks are 2-0-1 in their past three games and aren't necessarily looking to shake up their rotation, even though they're still searching for consistency on all four lines.

The easy answer is for Dach to slide into a third-line center role behind Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome, but the trio of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad has undoubtedly been the most consistent for the Blackhawks this season. And we saw in the home opener what happened when they were separated. 

The Blackhawks held an optional practice on Saturday morning and didn't run through line rushes, but before Dach was assigned to Rockford, he took several spins on the first line with Toews and alternated with Drake Caggiula and Alex DeBrincat. It's possible Dach starts on the wing, where he can play top-six minutes and not have as much responsibility as a center would.

"I've played wing in previous years, so it's not something that's new to me," Dach said. "At the same time I'm open-minded to just getting into the lineup and helping the team win."

The Blackhawks can give Dach up to nine NHL games before deciding whether they want to burn the first year of his entry-level contract or send him back to the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL.

"As a kid you always grow up dreaming of playing in the NHL, so there'll be nerves," Dach said. "But there will also be a lot of excitement. I've just got to do my best to focus on my game and be ready to play whenever my name's called upon by the coaching staff."

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis welcome Nick Gismondi into the fold before discussing Friday's win over Columbus. Robin Lehner played stellar and is forming quite a tandem in net with Corey Crawford (4:10), while the DeBrincat/Kane connection is alive and well (6:10), and the Blackhawks' struggles at even strength continued (12:10). Then, the guys react to the breaking news of Kirby Dach's recall from Rockford and discuss where he might fit into this lineup (15:10).

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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