The following is excerpted from the March/April 2015 issue of Blackhawks Magazine, featuring Niklas Hjalmarsson. Pick up the newest issue of the magazine at the next Blackhawks home game, or by calling the Blackhawks Store at 312-759-0079.
Somewhere along the line, sacrificing your body became a huge part of your mindset. You led the Blackhawks last year with 157 blocked shots, which is almost two a game.
It seems like the shots are getting harder and harder. Players are getting bigger and bigger, stronger and stronger. I guess the bruises get bigger and bigger, too. You have to pick your spots, and I think I’ve been better at that than when I used to try to block shots all the time. You can almost feel that this guy’s shot is not going to hit the net, so you don’t have to try to block it. But you also have to try to make sure, if you go to block a shot, that you are not screening your own goalie.
How does Elina feel about all this?
Well, every once in a while she says to me, “You can’t keep doing this…You can’t keep doing what you’re doing.” I tell her that it’s my job. I will heal.
Since you’ve become a husband and a father, it’s not like you’ve backed off. You’re as fearless as ever.
I want to be a good role model for my son. Always play hard and do your best.
You want Theo to grow up and throw his body in front of pucks, too?
He’s not even 1 year old, and he’s already grabbing the hockey stick and fooling around with it. But to be honest with you, I think somewhere along the line I will show him a soccer ball.
Does any facet of blocking shots worry you?
Oh, you get banged up and frustrated. You get home late at night, and it hurts to walk up to your bed. It’s frustration, though. I don’t get scared.
You obviously don’t play that way. But against the Minnesota Wild in the playoffs last spring, you got hit square in the throat. Players have lost their voice like that, forever. You didn’t have to talk to us for two weeks, which had to feel nice, but that didn’t frighten you even a little bit?
I remember that game. I got hit, and it became harder and harder to breathe. If it had gone on much longer, I could not have played any more shifts. The breathing got worse. But I never worried about losing my voice. The newspapers made a lot out of it, but it honestly didn’t feel that bad. Doctors told me just not to talk for a couple weeks.
There was also an incident in Toronto early last November.
I got hit with a puck near my eye. I texted Elina that I got hit in the face, but I was all right. When we got home, she was asleep. She didn’t really see me until the next morning. Freaked her out a little bit.