Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Hockey's sad summer

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Hawk Talk: Hockey's sad summer

Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011
Posted: 10:27 a.m.

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

READ: Two former Blackhawks die in plane crash

The puck cannot drop soon enough.

Blackhawks fans have been feeling that since shortly after last April's first-round playoff elimination. But all hockey fans can't wait, and for reasons beyond the anticipation early September brings as NHL training camps prepare to open.

Unfortunately, they'll only provide a distraction, not answers to what Jonathan Toews characterizes as the worst summer the sport has ever experienced.

Three popular people off the ice who put on their enforcer faces when they took the ice apparently took their own lives, either by mistake, or by design. Then came news Wednesday that 43 other lives were lost, many with NHL ties, in the plane crash carrying Lokomotiv, Russia's Kontinental Hockey League team that finished in third place last season.

Locally, the crash - and the losses - hit home for a handful of Blackhawks, besides the deaths of two of their former players, Alexander Karpovtsev and Igor Korolev. Joel Quenneville coached Pavol Demitra, Ruslan Salei, and Karlis Skrastins, and undoubtedly knew head coach Brad McCrimmon well, as an opponent during his playing days and as a longtime assistant coach around the league. New Hawks Brandon Segal was a teammate of Skrastins, Andrew Brunette with Salei, and Jamal Mayers with Demitra. And the player most deeply affected is Marian Hossa, whose body gained a much-needed rest this off-season, but who'll report to camp with a huge emotional burden. He was a close friend with fellow Slovakian Demitra, and were linemates during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Hossa also played under McCrimmon during his days as an assistant coach in Atlanta and Detroit.

It's unfathomable how fate led McCrimmon and those players to that team. McCrimmon left Mike Babcock's staff in Detroit after three years to pursue head coaching, and he wound up there. There are probably general managers around the NHL who thought of offering some of those players contracts or tryouts, but didn't. Or the players chose a more secure situation with Lokomotiv. That's how Cup-winning former Blackhawk Brent Sopel wound up signing with another KHL team, and he was among the dozens of current and former players who tweeted out their shock, sadness, and condolences upon hearing the news.

What made the crash shortly after takeoff more disturbing was the age of the aircraft being used, and how other similar jets had already been phased out after being used for more than three decades. Some Europeans countries reportedly wouldn't allow them in their airspace.

The NHL already had enough "hows" and "whys" to seek answers for already this summer following the deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak. Give the league credit for being so proactive over the past couple of years in concussion prevention and treatment. Now, it has a new, albeit related, concern it must address with the trickle-down effects of fighting on players' mental and psychological health. By all accounts, Belak was a warm, happy guy to be around, until family members revealed after he reportedly hanged himself about his battle with depression. It's a connection that Mayers admitted to my colleague Tracey Myers the other day is "awful. It certainly raises a lot of questions as to 'Why?'"

The connection opens the debate about fighting's place in the game, just as hits to the head did for the concussion debate. The focus must be placed on the prevention of another Belak, Rypien, or (former Bear) Dave Duerson from happening. There's no telling how many former players have managed to be lucky enough to persevere through those symptoms.

This offseason's been full of press releases from Commissioner Gary Bettman expressing sadness on behalf of the NHL over these losses that run so much deeper than the ones in the standings. Teams soon begin taking the ice here, and cheers from packed arenas will follow, a welcome diversion from this summer filled with so many dark clouds. If anything good is to come from it, the NHL, and KHL has more on its plate moving forward in finding ways to prevent anything like these incidents from happening again.

Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.

What 1,000 NHL points means to Patrick Kane and what's next for Blackhawks superstar

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AP

What 1,000 NHL points means to Patrick Kane and what's next for Blackhawks superstar

It was never a matter of if and only a matter of when Patrick Kane would reach 1,000 career NHL points. He tried his best not to let it creep into his mind as he got closer to the number, but it was difficult not to.

Kane entered Sunday's game sitting at 999 points after picking up one the night before on Hockey Night in Canada to extend his point streak to nine games. He needed only one more to make history and did so, fittingly, in front of a sold-out United Center crowd of 21,487.

Kane recorded the secondary assist on Brandon Saad's goal in the third period to make it 4-1 and the entire team left the bench to mob Kane thanks to captain Jonathan Toews, who orchestrated the ordeal and cleared it with league officials. 

"What a moment, obviously, with everyone coming onto the ice and sharing that moment with me," Kane said following a 5-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. "You see some faces in that pile that have been a big part of a lot of those points, whether it’s been [Toews] or [Duncan Keith] or [Alex] DeBrincat recently, [Saad] to finish it off I think was pretty cool. ... As far as everyone coming onto the ice and sharing that with me is something I’ll never forget."

Kane became the youngest American-born player to hit the 1,000-point mark and fourth player in Blackhawks history to accomplish that feat, joining Denis Savard (1,096), Bobby Hull (1,153) and Stan Mikita (1,497). Only 89 other players in NHL history are part of the 1,000-point club; Kane makes it 90.

[RELATED: Kane first star interview]

"He's one of those elite players," Brandon Saad said. "He's one of those few who can achieve goals like that. All you can say is good things about him. He's a special player. He keeps getting better with age. He's fun to play with."

It was a memorable night in Chicago, but there was something missing. Kane’s parents couldn't attend due to inclement weather in their hometown of Buffalo. His dad, Pat Kane Sr., made it to all 41 home games last season.

“It’s tough not having them here,” Kane said. “They’ve been a big part of my career. I’m sure I’ll talk to them after this and hopefully there will be some better moments in the future that they’ll be here for.”

Kane’s list of accolades in his NHL career is only getting longer and will continue to get longer. Three Stanley Cups. Conn Smythe Trophy recipient. Art Ross Trophy winner. League MVP. Now a member of the 1,000-point club.

"It’s special," Kane said. "I’ve been very fortunate in my career, whether it’s been getting drafted by Chicago or making some decisions when I was younger to move away at 14 years old, a freshman in high school, forgo college and play in London for a year.

"Obviously, Chicago winning the lottery, getting drafted by Chicago, then having a lot of good pieces in place here with some great players where we could turn the corner pretty fast and become a good team. There were a lot of things that were lined up. When you reach a milestone like this you think of all those players you played with that had a big part of it. It’s been a fun ride."

Even though he’s accomplished just about everything in his hockey life, Kane is still hungry for more.

[RELATED: Kane's road to 1,000 career points]

So what’s next?

"1,001," Kane laughed. "Start there and then move forward."

But really, there's only one goal.

"Maybe a few more Cups," Kane said to Chicago crowd after being named No. 1 star of the game. "That would be nice, right?"

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Blackhawks "finally starting to full buy-in to the system"

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AP

Blackhawks "finally starting to full buy-in to the system"

The Blackhawks just didn't fall into a five-game winning streak that saw Patrick Kane surpass the elite 1,000-point milestone. 

The streak and the fun, meaningful hockey we've been watching the Hawks play lately took everyone on the bench and in the room getting on board.

"We're finally starting to full buy-in to the system," said Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner, who saved 36 of 38 shots to help defeat the Winnipeg Jets 5-2 on Sunday night. "Full effort level, doing the right things at the right times. 15 games ago, we started playing good with leads, playing different, not backing up, just keep going at it. 

"We did the same thing (Sunday) in the third. Not just backing up that whole period, we went after them. 

"Everyone's just doing their job, and we're starting to feel (that) doing those things gets you rewarded, and everyone just keeps doing it. We're doing well but we've just got to keep doing it because every point is crucial.

"It's a learning curve. You don't just step into this league and everything's going to click for you. It's very seldom very few players do that. All of our young guys are starting to play really well. Every line, our D pair, everyone's just clicking and we're doing the right things. We've just got to keep that up, we can't deviate from it and just keep trying to stay consistent."

For now, the Hawks have been effectively utilizing head coach Jeremy Colliton's system and playing well enough as a unit to not only win five straight, but tie the Jets in the Western Conference to sit just three points out of a Wild Card spot. 

A sign of the good times was the Blackhawks swarming Patrick Kane to celebrate his 1,000th NHL point milestone in the third period of Sunday's game. Players jumped over the bench to congratulate Kane for the greatest sight the United Center has seen since the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup on home ice in 2015.

"Our habits are better and we’re protecting each other with how we play," Colliton said. "That’s a big thing. And with that, you gain confidence. You gain confidence that the guy beside you is going to do the right thing, there’s a little bit of peer pressure as well to do it for him. 

"We’re improving, too. we have a bunch of guys who are getting better. They’re developing, becoming more and more comfortable in the NHL or maybe it’s an increased role in the NHL and with our team. hopefully that will continue."

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.