LOS ANGELES – Duncan Keith thought someone was messing with him.
The Blackhawks defenseman had a message on his phone following a morning skate. It was from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and Keith had to call him back.
"I thought it was a joke or something, a prank call," Keith said. "Then I realized there were a couple of other guys who had those calls. We decided to call the number back and, sure enough, it was him congratulating us on this achievement."
That achievement was the NHL 100, a list which Keith, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane as well as seven former Blackhawks were named to on Friday night. The trio, part of three Stanley Cups and each a Conn Smythe winner (Toews in 2010, Kane in 2013 and Keith unanimously in 2015). The former Blackhawks on the list were Stan Mikita, Glenn Hall, Bobby Hull, Max Bentley, Denis Savard, Tony Esposito and Chris Chelios.
The Blackhawks' current players have accomplished quite a lot these past few seasons but making this list was special.
"I don't really know how to describe it," Toews said. "I want to let myself believe it but at the same time there's that part of you who wants to stay humble. The amount of incredible people and special players who have done so much to build this team, they're the ones who make it special for you to get drafted and to realize your dream. I'm midway through my career and all of a sudden I'm being thrown on a stage with some of the all-time greats. It's special."
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Current Blackhawks weren't the only ones awed.
"It means a lot. A lot of guys aren't here tonight that could have been here," said Savard, who made sure he got a picture with Kane near the end of the evening. "This is once in a lifetime. I want him next to me because I was his first [NHL] coach. I said, ‘you're going to have that picture now, and you won't forget it in 20, 30 years.'"
The Blackhawks had a healthy representation on the NHL 100 list. For the current players, getting that call from Bettman and the chance to be on that stage together will stick with them for a while.
"Two close friends like Kane and Duncs, it's pretty incredible and I don't think it's anything that will sink in," Toews said. "Winning Stanley Cups is the ultimate thing because you get to share that with your teammates. Whenever you get those individual recognitions – I think if you ask the other two I think they'll say the same thing – the first thing you always think of is always acknowledging a tribute to the teammates who helped you get there in the first place."