LAS VEGAS – Bryan Bickell walked into the ballroom at The Wynn where several players nominated for NHL Awards were doing pre-ceremony media availability. For Bickell to be here, it’s bittersweet.
“Yeah, you always want to make the awards in the other way,” he said.
But while Bickell’s playing career is over, he will be honored at Wednesday’s NHL Awards ceremony for the perseverance he showed last season. The former Blackhawks forward was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last November and fought back to play in the Carolina Hurricanes’ final regular-season games.
“[The league] called me up to come here and I said, ‘why not?’ I had time to make it out here and enjoy some festivities,” Bickell said. “It’s kind of a finale where the respect of what I went through and the story I had this year, they’re going to do it [Wednesday] and it’s just the icing on the cake. It’ll be emotional but I’m going to try to keep it together.”
Bickell, who was enjoying the few days in Las Vegas with family, said he’s been feeling “really good” lately.
“As the months have gone on I’m getting better. I’m slowing things down from the hockey life, working out, travel and all that. It’s less stressful and I’m enjoying time with my family,” Bickell said. “I’m feeling close to normal. I’m enjoying it and, for the next couple of days, enjoying this.”
Bickell and his family sold their house in Chicago and are settled back in Canada. What happens next for Bickell is uncertain. Right now, he’ll focus on these few days in Vegas and his moment on the NHL Awards stage.
“I gotta get ready for my speech,” Bickell said. “I’ve got 90 seconds, so I have to figure something out.”