The following is excerpted from the 2016 Playoffs issue of Blackhawks Magazine. Pick up the newest issue of the magazine at the next Blackhawks home game, or by calling the Blackhawks Store at 312-759-0079.
Andrew Ladd first joined the Blackhawks in 2008, when they were starting to skate toward daylight after those dark winters, when there weren't crowds at the United Center, only focus groups. A Cup winner with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, the former fourth-overall draft selection became an integral part of the Blackhawks' 2010 Cup championship. Alas, financial reality quickly followed the parade. SVP/GM Stan Bowman said it's "fair" to assume Ladd represented the most painful loss of several players they were forced to part with, but off he went to the Atlanta Thrashers.
"I realized I was going to be on my way out and I was sad about it, but the opportunity I was going to get in Atlanta was to play more," said Ladd, 30. "This year, as we got near the trade deadline again, I was thinking that I might move on. You obviously hope that if you go, you go to a place that has a chance to win the Cup. Chicago was at the top of my list for sure.
"I have a lot of good friends on the Blackhawks. The leadership is definitely still the same. They bring a certain confidence when we go out on the ice that filters throughout the dressing room. They still have the swagger that makes them great. The guys here now are a lot more mature. You went from Toews and Kane who were young and just coming into their own, and now they're veterans who have been around.
"You've seen them all evolve as players, taking the next step in terms of playing that 200-foot game. When the game is on the line, they know how to play the right way, and they come up big in big situations. I'm excited to be back here."
He was not alone. When the deal was consummated and announced during the aforementioned game against Nashville, the standing-room-only audience at the United Center roared. When Ladd reappeared with the Blackhawks for their nationally televised match against the Washington Capitals a few days later, the fans embraced him. They remembered a gritty competitor who traverses the tough areas. When Ladd returned to Winnipeg with the Blackhawks in March, he was accorded a standing ovation. Those fans remembered too.