The Blackhawks arrived at MB Ice Arena on Tuesday morning to find out that three-time Stanley Cup winner Joel Quenneville was relieved of his head coaching duties. Not only did it shock the hockey world, but it surprised players inside the locker room.
While they all understand it's a results-oriented business, the theme was consistent. The Blackhawks all took ownership of missing out on the playoffs last season and the recent five-game skid after a 6-2-2 start that played a role in their head coach losing his job.
"It was a shock to wake up to the news this morning for sure," Jonathan Toews said. "I think everyone, as players in the locker room, you take responsibilities. But at the end of the day, whether it's trades, changes, coaches being relieved of duties, those decisions are above your head and you have to respect them and you have to acknowledge them and move on with the decisions that have been made. But there's no doubt that there's going to be some shock there especially for guys like myself and the other guys in this room who have played for him for a long time."
Patrick Kane, who missed the first of three road games last week because of an illness, admitted he started playing the "what if" game in his head after learning on the news.
"To be honest with you, this is just kind of a me thing, but when I first heard the news I'm just kind of thinking I wish I wasn't sick in Vancouver or I wish I maybe felt better on the road trip and could have played better and then maybe something like this doesn't happen," Kane said. "Just thoughts running through your head. Also, [Duncan Keith] got kicked out two minutes into the game in Calgary. Maybe that makes a difference in the game as well. Different things run through your head as players.
"I think Joel actually got a lot out of this group as players the last couple years. He's done a great job of bringing the younger guys along and developing them. Same thing for this year as well. Obviously, missing the playoffs didn't help. A lot of answers I don't have. Definitely a tough morning for everyone for sure."
The core leadership group has been here for all 11 years of Quenneville's tenure in Chicago, which included three Stanley Cups, five Conference Final appearances, two Central Division titles and a Presidents' Trophy. But it's the personal bond they each developed that will never be forgotten.
"He means the world to me," Brent Seabrook said. "10 years, three Stanley Cups. What was I, 23, 24, when I came here? He taught me a lot as a young man, as a young player. Little things he always harped on that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Just the way he was with us, how he treated us professionally and as individuals. He was always a guy who liked to have some fun and what-not, but gave us our space and allowed us to be players. It was just a tough day today and you cherish the days and memories and all the stuff we did together."
Said Corey Crawford: "We spent a lot of time here with Joel as the coach, and the team has had three championships, obviously. You never want to see a guy leave, including the coaches. We’ve been through so much together. For me, personally, he’s had a ton of confidence in me from the start, and it’s hard to hear that news. In this business, those things happen sometimes. It seems like coaches are maybe the first ones to go most of the time. It’s just hard to see him go."