With the 11th annual Blackhawks Convention in the books, here are some of the things that stood out most to me.
Corey Crawford didn’t look or sound like a goalie who will be ready for the start of training camp. Beyond saying that he wasn’t 100 percent healthy, Crow looked like a guy who is still on the road to recovery. I can still remember Crawford talking to reporters back on February 12 in Arizona.
It was disturbing and scary to see him pause and search for answers that day. While Corey didn’t struggle like that at the convention, he didn’t leave you with the feeling that a return to the crease was in his immediate future.
While the team remains optimistic that Crawford will be ready for training camp, I would be stunned if Crow is ready to go in mid-September. Talking with one of my colleagues at the convention, they said “Corey reminds me of when we talked to Sidney Crosby back in 2012 and we wondered if his career would be cut short because of concussions.”
We all know things worked out for Crosby and he’s won a couple more championships since missing 108 games in the 2011 and 2012 campaigns. Let’s hope Crawford follows the same road back to health and hockey.
I am really looking forward to reading Rocky Wirtz’s new book, "The Breakaway: The Inside Story of the Wirtz Family Business and the Chicago Blackhawks." Looking at some of the excerpts that have been released, the Chairman doesn’t hold anything back. Rocky told fans at the convention that his goal was to tell the truth and not sugar coat his family’s story.
During an interview Jonathan Toews discussed how missing the playoffs was a “humbling experience and it’s time to earn it all over again.” Duncan Keith admitted the losing last year affected his attitude and he looks to take an upbeat approach to this young team as they attempt to get back to the postseason.
Watching Eddie Olczyk and Pat Foley embrace during the opening ceremonies, seeing the emotion pour out, I couldn’t help but think about the inspiring journey Edzo took us all on over the last year. He educated thousands of folks every time he was on the radio or TV about colon cancer. Many believe Eddie’s public battle played a role in the American Cancer Society recommending that people should start screening tests for colon and rectal cancers at age 45, rather than waiting until age 50.
Every Hawks player I spoke with that has played in the 4-on-4 Chicago Pro Hockey League has raved about the experience. They find it a great way to supplement their off-season workouts with on ice action, that is both competitive and safe. Alex DeBrincat loved his experience at the World Championships this past May and his face lit up when I asked him about continuing to play on Patrick Kane’s line this upcoming season. It will be interesting to see if Joel Quenneville will change his stance on putting Kane and “The Cat” together.
With Gustav Forsling having surgery this week on his right wrist, he will not be ready for training camp and won’t be expected to return to action until early November. The consensus opinion at the convention is that Henri Jokiharju is ready to play in the NHL and will likely make the team.
Lastly, stick tap to the Blackhawks faithful. You guys don’t let missing the playoffs, or a couple of one and dones, dampen your enthusiasm for this team. You rock the Indian Head sweater up and down Michigan Avenue in extreme temperatures and pack the Hilton Chicago every single year, never letting the win/loss record affect your positive attitude. Duncan Keith said he feeds off the energy of the fans at the convention and that also goes for those of us who are privileged to cover this team.