The following is excerpted from the January 2015 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.
A lot of things have happened lately to Kris Versteeg and Brad Richards. A lot of good things. Last summer, Versteeg was deep into training after a serious injury affected his second term with the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Richards was finding his way around a new city and introducing himself to new teammates. Now they are on a roll.
Let’s start with the most important part. Both of you are now family men.
Kris Versteeg: Yeah, Brittany and I got married in July, and we have a baby on the way.
Brad Richards: Rechelle and I got married and we’ve got a little guy, Luca. When you’re single, you maybe aren’t in a hurry to get back home, and when you get there, you take the game with you. You think about the good and the bad. I used to do that, anyway. But a wife and child change that. For the better, for sure.
Is it safe to say that both of you are also pleasantly surprised to be playing with the Blackhawks?
Versteeg: For me, absolutely. When we won the Stanley Cup here in 2010, I knew we weren’t going to be able to keep everybody together because of the salary cap. We all knew it. I got traded to Toronto right away. I talked with Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman and told him I’d like to come back to Chicago if it was ever possible. You never really expect to be that fortunate, but it happened.
Richards: We went to the Stanley Cup Final last spring against Los Angeles, but it was the same situation with the Rangers. Salary cap. The way my contract was structured, I expected that I would get a buyout. It was a business decision, and when my agent and I looked over possibilities, we skipped over the Blackhawks. We heard they were looking for a center, but we figured they didn’t have room under their cap. When he called and said the Blackhawks were interested, that changed everything. I told him, “Let’s get it done.”
Kris, you have often been quoted as saying players are “insanely lucky” to be with the Blackhawks. Why?
Versteeg: I’ve been with first-class organizations. Toronto, then Philadelphia. With Florida a couple years ago, we took New Jersey to double overtime in Game 7 of the playoffs. The Devils went to the Final and lost to L.A. But Chicago, this is the pinnacle. No question. Everything about it.
Does that ring true, Brad?
Richards: My first real exposure to the Blackhawks was the Convention in July, shortly after I signed. I was overwhelmed. I enjoyed New York. I wasn’t looking to leave, but as I said, salary cap. In New York, when the Rangers are winning, it’s big. But when it’s over, it’s over. As I saw with 10,000 fans wearing jerseys around a hotel here in July, it’s never over with the Blackhawks in Chicago. The Blackhawks are always relevant, at least now. I remember coming in here years ago, and there was nobody in the building. But now—great fans, great players, great organization, great city. Original Six. If it weren’t for the salary cap, half the league would want to play here. Chicago has become a destination point.