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Blackhawks Magazine: Boys to Men

by Bob Verdi / Chicago Blackhawks

The following feature appears in the April 2013 issue of Blackhawks Magazine, available starting at this Monday's game vs. Nashville. Pick up the newest issue of the magazine at the next Blackhawks home game, or by calling the Blackhawks Store at (800) GO-HAWKS.

Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad were selected by the Blackhawks in the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft. Now both youngsters have joined a core roster in Chicago, contributing to the team’s success. Team Historian Bob Verdi checks in with the “Man-Child” and the “Mutt” to discuss their nicknames, friendship and more.

Andrew, you’re 21, and Brandon, you’re 20. Even the veterans on the Blackhawks are excited about this team. What’s it like for a couple kids like you playing in Chicago?
Andrew Shaw: I came here in January a year ago and it’s been amazing. I live with my girlfriend downtown; we go to restaurants and people are really into hockey. I recently went to buy a suit and a couple kids recognized me. That puts a smile on my face. Growing up in Canada, the way people love hockey there, it’s like that here.

Brandon Saad: I live by myself. Unless I’m out for dinner with a group of our guys, which happens pretty often when we’re in town, I don’t get noticed very much.

Shaw: Oh, I think you’re being modest. Look at this guy. Young, single, strong. He’s probably got the women hanging from him.

Well, you guys certainly know each other. In this era of single rooms on the road, you are still roommates?
Shaw: We get along great. But we are opposites. Brandon has great speed on the ice, but off the ice, he doesn’t move as fast.

Saad: Yeah, I’m more laid-back. If this guy here starts running around too hyper, I just tell him to take his medicine.

Shaw: I have to get in and out of the bathroom fast. This guy takes his time there. Stands at the mirror, doing his hair. I’m guessing he spends as much time in front of the mirror as my linemate, Viktor Stalberg.

Saad: You know that’s not true. I wake up, wash my face, brush my teeth, and then probably put a hat on. I don’t spend time on my hair.

Andrew, you came up the hard way.
Shaw: I got cut from teams as a kid, got passed over in the draft a couple times and didn’t get picked until the fifth round the third time. I wondered whether I might have to join my dad in his contracting business back in Belleville, Ontario. But I kept at it, got signed to a contract with Rockford at the beginning of [last season], and four hours after I signed an NHL contract, I was called up to Chicago.

Brandon, how did you grab the hockey bug while growing up in Pittsburgh?
Saad: I played all sports, but first skated when I was maybe 2 and a half and fell in love with it. I watched the Pens with Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. I also watched Marian Hossa there, and now I am on the same team with him. There was big hockey interest in Pittsburgh, especially when they won their Stanley Cups, and youth programs got better and better. I was pretty athletic, but hockey was it for me.

Shaw: Of course he’s athletic. Look at him. He’s 20 and he’s got a mature body. Plus, he does things that are so mature. On the plane, he will take the napkin, stick it in his collar and let it hang down to protect his shirt while he eats. How many 20-year-old kids do that? That’s why they call him “Man-Child.”

Saad: Why would you want to spill something on your shirt if you don’t have to?

Wait. How did “Man-Child” start?
Saad: Sharpie. Patrick Sharp, I think, started it, and it’s kind of stuck.

Shaw: And I’m the “Mutt.” Either that or “Gerbil.” But “Mutt” seems to have lasted longest. “Man-Child” and the “Mutt” here.

Brandon…I mean, “Man-Child,” you’ve come a long way in a short time.
Saad: Yeah, I started last season with the Blackhawks and got sent down after two games. But even that helped me feel more comfortable now. Before, I was in Saginaw of the Ontario League with Greg Gilbert as my coach. He played with the Blackhawks and he won Stanley Cups with both New York teams. He was a shutdown forward when he played, and he is very good as a coach. Taught me a lot about the two-way game. Now I’m skating with Jonathan Toews and Hossa, two unbelievable players.

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