Marian Hossa and Doug Wilson, former Blackhawks and Hall of Famers forever, elegantly manned different positions during different eras. But they shared a common work ethic, each a commanding presence on the entire rink, with or without the puck. They exuded respect, class and character.
What separated Hossa, a power forward, and Wilson, a superior defenseman, was timing.
For the better part of 40 years, Troy Murray's name has been synonymous with the Blackhawks. He skated 688 games as one of the best two-way forwards, has served as a broadcaster for the last 20 years and is a pillar of the Blackhawks Alumni.
An Alberta kid who moved to Chicago at the age of 19, he fell in love with the city, the organization and the fans. Today, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone more emblematic of the Blackhawks than Troy Murray.
Last October, the Blackhawks made public their already internal operating mantra to set the focus on the future.
Before the 2020-21 season even began, it was already to be one that looked unlike any in recent memory. The younger players would see more ice time in important situations. Mistakes would be teaching opportunities. The long-term vision the ultimate goal beyond wins and losses -- though of course wins would be important, too.
The building feels empty, but not the rebuilding. Fans who have been following these Blackhawks on TV and radio will someday pack the United Center again to see them live. The seats are vacant, yet the secret is out. This team is everything it wasn't supposed to be. Fun, entertaining, talented, deep, competitive. Easy to watch, hard to play against.
"People have doubted us," offered Andrew Shaw. "Let's surprise 'em."
Notice the eyes, the hands and also his footwork. It's those skates that propel Patrick Kane on his next joyride. They're the launch pad of his genius, connected to a mind wired with a remarkable hockey IQ. His body accelerates as his radar slows the game down, while he weaves and bobs, looking for spaces only he can calibrate. He surely will be stalked by opposing checkers, or he might just feign hovering harmlessly out there, patiently waiting until the last millisecond, when it's time to strike.
Jeremy Colliton's first two years as head coach of the Blackhawks have been anything but routine. But then again, nothing in his coaching career has been.
At 35 years old, it's not a stretch of the imagination to think that instead of stepping behind the bench each game night and matching line combinations, Colliton could be somewhere swinging his skates over the boards and taking the ice himself.
Life, however, had different plans -- ones that drew from his past to build the future.
There were early indications that Connor Murphy's destiny was to defend.
As a youngster, when he was on the ice and playing forward, Murphy naturally drifted back toward his own blue line to help keep pucks out of his team's net. When he was on the lacrosse field in high school, some of his coaches suggested he shift from midfielder to defender.
With a smile, Duncan Keith watched as his son bantered with dad's teammates, a scene quite the contrast from early on in the defenseman's career when life was all about hanging out and playing hockey.
Life has changed in many ways since Keith first entered a Blackhawks dressing room some 17 years ago, but his desire to continue to play at a high level and help his team win games while enjoying the ride has never wavered.
After a successful NHL stint that resulted in three Stanley Cup championship rings and the admiration of just about everyone he ever encountered, Colin Fraser packed up his family and headed to Germany in 2016 to continue his hockey career.
Everything seemed ideal, from his coach, to the city of Nuremberg, to the apartment he shared with his wife and two children (with another on the way) to the team that was in first place by November.
While all appeared right with the world, it wasn't.