Kris Versteeg

Kris Versteeg pens emotional letter to Blackhawks organization after release from Rockford IceHogs

versteeg_ap.jpg
AP

Kris Versteeg pens emotional letter to Blackhawks organization after release from Rockford IceHogs

Kris Versteeg made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks and won two Stanley Cups with the team, but his comeback attempt has ended.

Versteeg, 33, requested his contract with the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, be terminated. Versteeg joined the IceHogs on a one-year AHL contract after last season, but was limited to six games so far this season due to injury.

“Earlier this week, Kris approached us about mutually terminating his contract, at which point we asked him to take another couple of days to think about it,” IceHogs general manager Mark Bernard said. “We spoke again Saturday morning and he had come to his final decision. Since 2007, when Kris first became a member of the Blackhawks organization, he has represented us with class and professionalism. He will always be a member of our organization’s family and we wish him and his family all the best going forward.”

Versteeg had two stints with the Blackhawks from 2007-2010 and 2013-2015, playing on the 2010 and 2015 Cup winning teams. He last played in the NHL two seasons ago with the Calgary Flames. He spent last season overseas in Russia and Sweden before signing with the IceHogs.

Versteeg wrote a letter to the Blackhawks organization that makes it sound like the end of a chapter for him:

To the Blackhawks organization,

It all started in February 2007, while I was riding a bus with the Providence Bruins. We were on our way to play the Manchester Monarchs when head coach Scott Gordon called me to come see him up at the front of the bus. Scott said “Steeger... I hate to tell you this, but we just traded you.” All I can remember about this moment was that my mind was racing. I couldn’t hear anything but my own thoughts. It was only two weeks prior that we played a team that was loaded with young, exciting, and promising talent. With so many young players I remember saying to one of my teammates after the game “I sure hope I never get traded there.” After a couple minutes I finally asked Scott and said, “to who?” Scott picked up a pen and a piece of paper then wrote…CHICAGO. The team no more than two weeks ago I was dreading at the very thought of being traded to. At this exact moment I remember looking at that paper saying to myself “this is not good!”

What I didn’t know at that moment, is that I was being traded to an organization that would not only give me my first chance, but my second and final chance. I would like to give thanks and show my sincere gratitude to John McDonough, Stan Bowman, Mark Bernard, Al MacIsaac, Jay Blunk, and of course Rocky Wirtz and the entire Wirtz Family. You brought me in that day and gave me a new home. This organization gave me everything that I have today, and for this I am grateful. I, as well, would like to thank all members of the Blackhawks/IceHogs organization from top to bottom, and most importantly… the great fans of Chicago and Rockford.

Little did I know that day when I saw Scott write CHICAGO on that piece of paper that this word would forever be written all over my heart, and soul.

Thank you for everything.

Yours Truly,

Kris Versteeg

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Kris Versteeg named captain of Blackhawks' AHL affiliate Rockford IceHogs

versteeg_ap.jpg
AP

Kris Versteeg named captain of Blackhawks' AHL affiliate Rockford IceHogs

PRAGUE — The Rockford IceHogs announced their leadership group for the 2019-20 season, and two-time Stanley Cup champion Kris Versteeg has been named team captain. Coach Derek King also revealed that forwards Matthew Highmore, Jacob Nilsson and Tyler Sikura will serve as the alternates.

And in true Versteeg fashion, he couldn't help but use part of that moment to take a not-so-subtle jab at his former Chicago teammate.

"It's about time the state of Illinois got a real captain," a smiling Versteeg told reporters, poking fun at Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. "No digs at anyone in particular. But it was a really special moment. It's been a long time since I've ever had a letter or worn anything. I don't expect to change who I am or anything like that but it was a moment that I'm going to remember in hockey for a long time."

Versteeg is entering his 14th season as a pro after taking a year off to play overseas, where he spent time in the KHL and SHL last season. The 33-year-old winger signed a one-year contract with the Blackhawks' AHL affiliate in April to help be a mentor to the organization's top prospects.

Versteeg isn't a stranger to Rockford, either. He was a member of the 2007-08 team, which was the first year of its AHL existence, and compiled 49 points (18 goals, 31 assists) in 56 games and added six goals and five assists in 12 postseason contests.

Versteeg is the 11th captain in IceHogs history and first since Jake Dowell in 2016-17.

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Kris Versteeg doesn't believe his time in NHL is over just yet

Kris Versteeg doesn't believe his time in NHL is over just yet

For the third time in his career, Kris Versteeg is back with the Blackhawks organization. But this time around, he's on an AHL contract after signing a one-year deal with the Rockford IceHogs in April.

Versteeg last played in the NHL during the 2017-18 campaign, but a hip injury forced him to miss more than half the season with the Calgary Flames. He spent the past season in the KHL and Swedish Hockey League, and proved to himself that he feels he can still play at a high level.

While Versteeg understands that nothing is guaranteed and he may have been brought in by the Blackhawks to be a veteran presence in Rockford, the 33-year-old winger believes his time in the NHL isn't over just yet.

"I mean, it would be nice," Versteeg said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "And I think for me, the best way I can describe it is, I don't play hockey because I need money anymore. Just to be brutally honest, I don't need that. What I need is, I need to play hockey and if I didn't feel that I needed to play hockey and I couldn't play at a high level, then I wouldn't need to play hockey anymore either. I would just retire and go do other things.

"But I feel I can play still at a high level, especially coming off my last hip surgery and feeling how good I felt in Sweden without really being in hockey shape. So I felt like there's something left in me to give and if I didn't feel I needed that then I wouldn't be here today in the situation going to Rockford and trying to play, so I'm going there with the intentions to play at a high level in Rockford and to contribute every night. That's what I plan to do."

Check out the interview in the video above.

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