Lightning's Steve Thomas remembers the Blackhawks roar


Lightning's Steve Thomas remembers the Blackhawks roar

He may blend in as one of the Tampa Bay Lightning's assistant coaches, but when the name Steve 'Stumpy' Thomas is heard by Blackhawks fans, heads turn. He played more than 1,200 games for five teams during his NHL career, which included seven years in Chicago.

Now, in the Stanley Cup Final for the second time — his first as a coach — Thomas looked back at his time in the Windy City.

"I had the opportunity to play in the Old Stadium, and I had the opportunity to play in the United Center, so we had some good teams," Thomas told CSN Chicago last week in Tampa Bay. "I played with the likes of Denis Savard, Steve Larmer, Doug Wilson, some of the great players that have ever played in the organization. I have fond, fond memories."

Thomas made plenty of friends during his 20-year playing career. Former teammate Adam Creighton was with him for stops with both the Blackhawks and Islanders. The two combined for 74 goals in the 1989-90 season with Chicago.

"He was probably my closest buddy there. But we were such a real close team. With Mike Keenan there we wanted no other way than to have a close bunch of guys, and we were," he said. "We were pretty successful."

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One of the many highlights in his career was being part of the tradition of the National Anthem at the old Chicago Stadium.

"Whether it was in postseason or whether it was during the regular season, you just had a chill run down your spine every single time because it was so loud," he said. You didn't even think a building could be so loud. And that just jacked you up for the first 10 minutes of a game. And I know that a lot of teams that came into our building just wanted to weather the storm for the first five, seven, 10 minutes. They brought that over to the United Center.

"Now it's just over the top in there. It's a great place to play and if you can't get ready to play in that building, you shouldn't be in the game."

Thomas reached the Conference Final with the Blackhawks in back-to-back seasons, but couldn't get past the Oilers and Flames, respectively.

After stops with the Islanders, Devils, and Maple Leafs, Thomas landed back in Chicago as a free agent in 2001.

In March 2003 at the trade deadline, the 39-year old forward was sent to Anaheim. Three months later he found himself playing in his only Stanley Cup Final. The New Jersey Devils outlasted the Ducks in seven games, and Thomas hung up the skates one year later after a season in Detroit.

"We were the No. 8 seed and went and got in the Final and lost in Game 7, so that was a tough pill to swallow," he said. "It was my 19th year in the league nad it was the only time I had a chance to be in the Stanley Cup Final."

Twelve years after reaching his first Final, he's back again with a chance to raise the Stanley Cup. He joined the Lightning in 2010 monitoring player development, and was named an assistant coach in 2012. While the excitement is still there being two wins away from the ultimate goal, he says it's different being here as a coach compared to a player.

"You feel like you've added, you've contributed in a different way, and it's just as satisfying for me to be able to sit here at the end of this series and say we did everything we could to win a Cup," he said, "and hopefully we win one. If we don't, then we'll have no regrets from it."

With the series tied 2-2, it's going to be a battle for either team to win two more games.

As for Thomas' take on the outcome, may the best team win.

John Schippman is the Assistant News Director and Blackhawks Producer at Comcast SportsNet Chicago. You can follow John on Twitter at @JOHNSHIP99.

Blackhawks release 2018-19 schedule


Blackhawks release 2018-19 schedule

Uncap those markers and start circling your calendars, Blackhawks fans. The 2018-19 season is officially out.

The Blackhawks will kick off their 91st campaign in franchise history with a road contest against the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 4 at 6:30 p.m. The home opener is set for Oct. 7, with an Original Six matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at 6 p.m.

The Blackhawks have 14 back-to-back games, and the longest road trip of the season is three, which takes place five times over the course of the season; the longest homestand is four games, from Dec. 12-18.

The biggest highlight of the season will be the Original Six Winter Classic Showdown between the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1 at Notre Dame Stadium. It will be the sixth outdoor appearance for Chicago, and fourth in the Winter Classic.

The Blackhawks will also square off with the defending champion Washington Capitals on Nov. 21 at 6 p.m., and welcome them to Chicago on Jan. 20, set for NBC's Game of the Week at 11:30 a.m.

Here's a look at the full schedule:

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman: 'We expect Corey to be back'

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman: 'We expect Corey to be back'

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said that the team expects goalie Corey Crawford to be back next season around training camp. Bowman also mentioned that Crawford might speak about his status himself during the Blackhawks Convention.

“What I said at the end of the year was still the case now, which is we expect Corey to be back,” Bowman said in a Thursday afternoon conference call. “We don’t have any reason to think that’s not going to happen.”

According to Bowman, Blackhawks players, including Crawford, already have their eyes set on next season.

“At this point in the summer, all the players are preparing for next season,” Bowman said. “Corey’s in that same preparation mode.”

Crawford is nursing what has been labeled an upper-body injury by the team. The two-time Stanley Cup winner was put on the shelf for the rest of the season back in late December, and he has not seen the ice since he skated in a February practice.

“Nothing has changed,” Bowman said. “We expect him to be back and ready to go in training camp.”

The Blackhawks have chosen to keep any groundbreaking news with Crawford under wraps, which the organization has done with other player injuries in the past. Bowman spoke about his vagueness in this situation.

“We’ve never gone into specifics about injuries,” Bowman said. “I realize this probably gets more attention because he’s our starting goalie and he won the Stanley Cup.”

Fans will have to take a wait-and-see approach, because it is unlikely that there will be a significant update regarding Crawford’s health before the season gets closer to its start.

Last season, Crawford only appeared in 28 games, posting a record of 16-9 with 782 saves before going down for the rest of the year.