With tens of thousands of Blackhawks fans gathered at Soldier Field on Thursday afternoon, Pat Foley talked of a journey.
This particular story was about a particular player, and we’ll get to that later. But as the Blackhawks celebrated their third Stanley Cup in the past six seasons, the “journey” talk could have been about several few players or the team itself.
For Duncan Keith, it was coming full circle. The defenseman talked of an old trip home to British Columbia from Norfolk, Va., where he played for the Admirals at the time. That trip included a stop in Chicago and scalped Cubs tickets that left him with an obstructed view. Today, as the three-time Cup/two-time gold medal/two-time Norris Trophy/Conn Smythe winner said, “it turns out I have a pretty good view 10 years later at Soldier Field."
For Brad Richards, it was a phone call at the end of last year’s disappointing Stanley Cup Final end that led to this year’s Stanley Cup Final triumph. His new good friend/line-mate Patrick Kane sang his praises on Wednesday, hoping the two could keep winning together. Richards heard it. “Kaner has some pull around here,” he said at the lectern. “Maybe you’ll want me back.”
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For Scott Darling, to whom Foley was referring to, it was a plethora of minor league stops, a battle against alcohol won, a chance with the Blackhawks, a backup job won and the pivotal role he played in the first round.
For Teuvo Teravainen, who entered this 2014-15 season uncertain on the ice and in his new country, enters next season a strong postseason player whose wit and personality are coming through in his second language.
For Michal Rozsival, it was a second Cup, albeit one he wasn’t on the ice to hoist this time. A fractured ankle sustained in the second round and travel disrupted by Monday night’s storms prevented that. But he was there lifting it on Thursday, getting an ovation from a crowd that recognized the defenseman’s worth once he went down with that injury.
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For Kimmo Timonen, it was getting traded here to fulfill the career-long dream of winning the Cup. Timonen, who will retire, had the same Ray Bourque-like look on his face — Google it, kids — when he hoisted the Cup again on Thursday. It was sheer joy for a player who ended a great career with the ultimate prize.
For the Blackhawks, it was one last celebration for a team that won’t look the same once 2015-16 begins. The Blackhawks weathered a lot this season, from the usual ups and downs to the heartbreaking losses of assistant equipment manager Clint Reif and former teammate Steve Montador. The Blackhawks weathered it all, once again claiming a Cup that’s so difficult to obtain once in the salary-cap world, let alone three times.
Will the Blackhawks be celebrating another Cup in the near future? Players were already talking about it on Thursday; they’re familiar with the difficult journey it takes to get there again. But the reward’s been worth it.