LOS ANGELES – Corey Crawford was as disappointed to hear the news as anyone, given how long he and Bryan Bickell go back. His former teammate, with whom he played since their minor-league days, will retire at the end of this season.
"I've known him my whole pro career," Crawford said of Bickell. "It's pretty shocking to hear that stuff when you first got the news. And it was pretty emotional watching that interview, too. Those two interviews. I talked to him and it's tough to hear him say that. But I think his family's the most important thing right now. And his health."
The news wasn't surprising but it was nevertheless tough to see. Bickell, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis earlier this season, announced on Saturday that he'll retire after the Carolina Hurricanes' final regular-season game. Bickell's time with the Blackhawks had plenty of great moments, as he was here for three Stanley Cups. But to see the 31-year-old having to quit now was still disappointing.
"Great teammate great friend. One of those guys who always kept the boys loose. He never took himself too seriously, always about the team and just doing whatever he could for the team. he went through some tough moments and later on, when he was assuming lesser roles and playing a little time in the minors, so he's been through a lot. I've got a lot of respect for him as a person, as a player," Jonathan Toews said. "Obviously our careers come to an end at some point but for him, it's unfortunate that it was cut short. But it sounds like he's making the right decision. He's looking out for himself, his health and his family. It can't be an easy decision so a lot of respect for him and what he's been through these last couple of years."
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Bickell did have a tough final season with the Blackhawks, a good deal of which he spent with the Rockford IceHogs. Ryan Hartman said Bickell approached the situation well and was a great example for the younger players.
"He came in and brought a tremendous amount of leadership and the will to win, the drive. He's battled through some circumstances, as everyone knows. I'm glad he was able to make it back for a few [games,]" Hartman said of Bickell returning for the Hurricanes' final three regular-season contests. "It's tough to see a guy like that retire but I'm happy for what he accomplished. Great guy."
Bickell will always be a part of Blackhawks history. His courage and fight against multiple sclerosis has garnered great attention and admiration throughout the league. It's a shame Bickell's career will be cut short but his impact on it will always be felt.
"You like the guy. He's well-liked by his teammates and he brought an element to our team that was very useful and I think his physicality in series and early in games, in the playoffs, and early in series, he could set the tone," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Who knows when [the illness] first came upon with him. I thought he did great job this year doing everything he could to get back and play. And commend Carolina giving him a chance to do what he had to do to get back to play again. It's a tough story, but at the same time, special guy."