Blackhawks

Patrick Sharp 'emotional' during tribute as Stars stave off Blackhawks

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Patrick Sharp 'emotional' during tribute as Stars stave off Blackhawks

Patrick Sharp got a taste for what his return to Chicago would be like when the Blackhawks and Dallas Stars squared off at the United Center in the final preseason game on Oct. 3. But it was still emotional for everyone watching Sharp on the visiting side of a meaningful game in February.

"Tough start to the game to be honest with you," Sharp said following a 4-2 win over the Blackhawks on Thursday night. "My legs were a little shaky, which was funny. I haven't felt that way in a long time. I think as the game went on, got a nice cheer from the crowd, that made me feel pretty good, then it was just a regular hockey game after that."
 
It didn't feel like a regular hockey game until Sharp was properly welcomed back, something the Blackhawks rightfully held off on doing until their first regular season meeting instead of in the preseason.
 
During the first TV timeout of the game, the Blackhawks displayed a lengthy video montage on the video board — and later for Johnny Oduya during a separate tribute — thanking Sharp for his contributions to the organization, which featured moments from his rookie season to helping bring three Stanley Cups to a city that starved for just one prior to 2010.
 
A sold-out crowd of 22,051 gave the former Blackhawk a standing ovation that nearly blew the United Center roof off.
 
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
 
"Very special," Sharp said of the crowd's reaction. "First class by a first-class organization. I've said many times, I've enjoyed my 10 years here in Chicago. Very proud of what we accomplished on and off the ice, got a lot of good friends there on the other side. It was definitely emotional to watch that. Lot of footage when I was younger, just kind of makes you think of all the good times over the years here."
 
Many of those good times involved late-game heroics through late-period surges, something Sharp helped ignite in a young Blackhawks team. Only this time, he found out what it felt like being on the other side.
 
"Yeah, I've seen that a few times," Sharp said of the Blackhawks, who out-shot the Stars 21-2 in the third period. "Been a part of a few of those, when the (defense) gets active and they're hanging on to pucks, making plays. Tough to kind of withstand, but credit our goaltender. He made some big saves to keep that two-goal lead."
 
For Sharp, he was one of three players — along with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — on the 2015 championship team to have been there for both the bad times of finishing near the bottom of the standings with the Blackhawks and the good of enjoying the top of the mountain three times.
 
Now with the Stars, Sharp is looking to instill that backs-against-the-wall mentality and bring the kind of experience a young team looking to break through needs, which is something Stars coach Lindy Ruff and teammates noticed immediately.
 
"He knows how to win and he knows how to act when you lose, too," Ruff said.
 
"He's made us better-looking," a chuckling Kari Lehtonen, who made 44 saves in the win, said before adding: "He's been there, done that. People listen to him. He does all the right things. He works hard and brings some great skill too. He's been a great addition."
 
[MORE: Chicago to host 2017 NHL Draft]
 
Sharp credited a smooth transition to the team's already tight-knit group when he first joined Dallas.
 

"It's an easy team to fit in to," Sharp said before the game. "Great locker room, they're well-coached, they're having a lot of fun on an off the ice, it's great to be a part of. We've had a good season up until this point, but ultimately we're going to be defined by how well we play down the stretch."
 
The Stars had won four of their last five games entering Thursday night's contest, but a 5-1 shellacking by Chicago over the weekend in their own building left a sour taste in their mouth. 
 
A few players, including captain Jamie Benn, called it "embarrassing."
 
They responded by jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the first period on Thursday, thanks to a hat trick by Patrick Eaves, which chased Blackhawks netminder Corey Crawford, who hadn't allowed four goals in a game since Dec. 29.
 
"Our team was fired up," Sharp said. "Playing a team like Chicago, especially what happened last time, our guys were certainly ready to play. Not often you score four on (Crawford) like that, but great start, thought we played pretty well after that."
 
[RELATED: Blackhawks' 'statement loss' to Stars tightens Central Division race]

 
With the win, the Stars pulled within a point for the Central Division lead on the Blackhawks with three games in hand, a task Sharp never lost sight of heading into the matchup.
 
"First couple games against the Hawks was difficult to play in," Sharp said. "A little emotional, a little weird out there, but some valuable points on the line so I'm sure those feelings will go away as the season goes on."
 
Not only was it a special day for Sharp, who also played his 800th career game in a stadium he played a bulk of them in, but his entire family as well after they got to spend the day with him in Chicago. That included his dad, who tagged along on the Stars' father's trip this week and may have had more fun in the return than Sharp.
 
"I know my dad's having a great time," Sharp said. "He thinks he runs the United Center. I see him going around shaking everyone's hand and seeing old friends from the Hawks, so he's having a great time as well."
 
While the day was certainly a memorable one for Sharp, the story could get better if the two Central Division foes meet down the line in the postseason, which is a strong possibility.
 
"I'm sure. Our team is a younger team. We're getting better," he said. "We feel like if we want to get to a place where we want to be, Chicago is going to be in the way at the end of the season. It's just one game, many more battles down the road, and it should get more and more intense as we go."

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread:

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

When the Blackhawks drafted Jonathan Toews third overall in 2006 and Patrick Kane with the No. 1 pick the following year, it was a sign that the dark skies were clearing in Chicago. Things really started to change when Rocky Wirtz took over as chairman following the death of his father Bill in September of 2007, and one of the first decisions he made was to televise all 82 games.

The fans were coming back.

For only the second time in 11 years, the Blackhawks finished above .500 in 2007-08 but missed the playoffs by three points, a season in which Kane won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.

The following year Joel Quenneville took over as head coach after only three games to provide some coaching experience behind the bench for a young team on the rise. It resulted in a 104-point season and ended in a Conference Finals berth at the hands of the arch-rival Detroit Red Wings in five games.

The Blackhawks were ready to make that step into championship contenders. They just needed someone to put them over the edge.

Enter Marian Hossa.

On July 1 of 2009, he committed to the Blackhawks for 12 years worth $62.8 million. He bought into the long-term vision and wanted to be a part of something special for many years to come.

Was he ever.

In his first game as a member of the Blackhawks, Hossa scored two goals in a 7-2 road victory against San Jose after missing the first month and a half of the season with a shoulder injury. It was at that moment where you saw what kind of powerhouse the Blackhawks could be and would become with a full lineup and future Hall of Fame winger added to a mixture of franchise-changing players scratching the surface.

Fast forward to Game 5 of the 2010 quarterfinals. You know how it goes. Series is tied 2-2. The Blackhawks trail 4-3 late in the third period. Extra attacker is on. How many times have we seen this? The Blackhawks were surely going to find a way to tie it up ... and then Hossa is sent to the box with 1:03 to play in regulation. A five-minute major boarding penalty.

Dagger...

Not so fast. 

Patrick Kane went on to score arguably the biggest goal in Blackhawks history, a shorthanded one that evened it up with 13.6 seconds to go. United Center is up for grabs. But there are still four minutes left to kill off on the penalty once overtime starts, which Hossa once called "the longest four minutes of my life." 

In a span of nine seconds following the penalty kill, Hossa jumped on the ice from the box, darted straight for the net and buried home what was the second-biggest goal in franchise history to put the Blackhawks up 3-2 in the series. Two nights later Hossa assisted on three goals and the Blackhawks eliminated the Nashville Predators in their barn.

The rest is history.

Who knows if the Blackhawks rally to win that series if they don't tie it up or win it in overtime. Who knows if they break through the next year. Who knows if that core group even remains together. The course of the franchise could've changed that night.

Instead, Hossa was handed the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career on June 9, 2010 from Jonathan Toews, who couldn't give it to him fast enough after he came up on the losing end in consecutive appearances with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings in 2008 and 2009.

Hossa would add two more titles to his résumé with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015, which almost certainly locked up his legacy as one of the all-time greats and his eventual next stop: The Hockey Hall of Fame. The wait was worth it.

"I was hoping to get one coming to Chicago and now I’ve got three," Hossa said following the 2015 Stanley Cup win. "What a feeling." 

The Blackhawks don't win three Stanley Cups without Hossa, who will go down as arguably the greatest free-agent signing in Chicago sports history.

On behalf of the city of Chicago: Thank you, 81.