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Blackhawks Magazine: For Love of the Game

by Bob Verdi / Chicago Blackhawks

The following feature appeared in the November 2013 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 (800) GO-HAWKS.

With a 16-7 record and a 1.84 goals-against average,
Corey Crawford was the backbone of the Blackhawks’ drive to the 2013 Stanley Cup. He was so important that Patrick Kane, who received the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable individual during the postseason, volunteered that Crawford was the “best player in the playoffs.” Crawford didn’t get the award, but he was rewarded with a six-year contract extension. Here, Crawford discusses his excellent year with Blackhawks Magazine.

You and your teammates had an amazing run from January to June this year. When did it finally sink in?

It was gradual, and it took awhile. Every day I woke up, it felt more real. And every day for the first week or so after we won, it seemed like they were showing those last two minutes of Game 6 in Boston on television.

You had a good view of history: two goals, 17 seconds apart, for a 3-2 Cup-clinching victory.

Actually, I never saw (Bryan) Bickell’s goal that tied it. I had come off for a sixth skater and was sitting on our bench. All the guys started jumping up and down in front of me, going crazy. Then I went back on the ice, thinking, “OK, let’s shut them down and win it in overtime.”

What were you thinking when Dave Bolland scored?

I celebrated. But I’m not sure what else I was thinking, except to stay focused while those final few seconds ticked off the clock. I sure didn’t want overtime then. Last thing I wanted was to give one up after all that and have it be 3-3. It’s hard to describe the feeling at the end. Watching the clock, 3… 2… 1.

After paying your dues in the minor leagues before you finally made it to the NHL and became the Blackhawks’ number one goalie, might you have appreciated the Stanley Cup more than some of the other guys?

I don’t know about that phrase, “paying your dues.” You hear it a lot. But just because you spend a few seasons in the minors working as hard as you can and waiting for a chance, that doesn’t mean you should be given anything. You don’t deserve an automatic promotion just because you put in time.

Well, were you relieved? Proud?

Of course you’re excited. You dream of winning a Stanley Cup so much as a kid, it almost becomes too big. There are frustrations and emotional swings in the minors. I didn’t doubt my ability, but I wondered whether I would get my chance. I would have liked to make the NHL sooner than I did, but that wasn’t the case. I was still playing a game I love, with a great organization, and I think I grew as a player and a person.

You made a number of huge saves during the two-month Cup run. But talk about how you responded after not making one in Game 6 at Detroit. Was that a defining moment?

I guess, yeah, it was probably one of them. We were facing elimination, I let in a soft goal during the second period, and the Red Wings went up 2-1. The puck knuckled a little, but still, from that distance, it was a bad goal. There was nothing I could do about it, and I just had to focus on not giving up another one.

And with three goals in the third period, the Blackhawks won 4-3.

Our guys came together, as they usually do. We had a calm group, and very confident. If we play the way we can, we believe we’re never out of a game. We have a lot of great leaders.

Are you among them?

I don’t think so. I don’t have to be, not with all the guys in the room who have won two Cups and know what it takes.

Our guys came together, as they usually do. We had a calm group, and very confident. If we play the way we can, we believe we’re never out of a game. We have a lot of great leaders.Corey Crawford

Your guys seem to like playing in front of you.

I hope so. I don’t go around asking them, but I know I like playing with them in front of me.

After every game, win or lose, you stand in front of your locker and answer questions from the media about what happened. And, like Tony Esposito, a Hall of Fame goalie for the Blackhawks, every goal is your fault. Even when it isn’t.

But it is my fault. If the puck goes in the net behind me and the red light goes on, it’s my fault. I did something wrong, or it wouldn’t have been a goal. As far as being around all the time to talk to reporters, I think one reason for that is, I’m so slow in getting my equipment off and getting dressed. But I don’t mind answering questions.

Even questions about your glove hand? Against the Bruins, you heard that was your weakness.

Yeah, and in the series before that against Los Angeles, it was my blocker side that was my weakness. So I told reporters that I was bad on both sides. I guess I was being a little sarcastic, but that stuff doesn’t really bother me. If it affects me, then I have a problem. There’s nothing anybody could ask that will upset me.

You seem rather normal for a goalie. Are you?

Well, I like to stay on an even keel if I can, and I like to have fun. Goaltending has changed. A long time ago, they played without masks. I’m not saying they were crazy, but playing without a mask? I don’t think I would want to do that.

Indeed, Glenn Hall, another Blackhawks Hall of Famer, claims he never heard a retired goalie say he was sorry about being retired.

But I love it. I love the act of getting out there and competing and stopping pucks. I even like practice, at least most of the time. Sometimes you’re tired and you don’t feel so good about having 200 pucks fired at you, but I love to play. People talk about pressure, but if you feel pressure, then you get tight and start squeezing the stick.

But the game does keep you humble, doesn’t it?

The game keeps me young. This is all I’ve ever wanted to do.

It has to be a rush when you hear 22,000 fans at the United Center chanting, “COR-EY! COR-EY!”

It’s great. I appreciate it. I’ve also heard them yell a few other things, but that’s cool. Our fans love their hockey.

While growing up in Montreal, you idolized Patrick Roy, the Canadiens’ iconic goalie. Now he’s coaching the Colorado Avalanche, so we know where you’re headed.

Me? A coach? No chance. But Patrick was one of the best ever, and the passion and fire he showed as a goalie — you can see he’s carried that over to his next career.

What was it like bringing the Cup home to Montreal?

Not as crazy as it would have been if I was with the Canadiens. But it was great. I’m from a suburb of Montreal, Châteauguay, where it’s all hockey, all the time. The best part, besides having the Stanley Cup around for my family and friends, was showing it to all the young kids. It’s not often that a hometown guy brings it back, and they really appreciated it. For those kids, it showed that if you are dedicated and work hard enough, it can happen. One night, we took the Stanley Cup to downtown Montreal. But there was no parade. Just about 80 of us, having a good time.

Speaking of hard work, your parents, Trevor and Sylvia, mentioned at the parade how much effort you and your teammates expended to win the Cup.

It is a lot of hard work. But we all have parents who worked hard to make it possible — all the sacrifices they made so we could go off to play our hockey games. Mom and Dad are still working: Mom at McGill University, Dad for the government. It made me happy, seeing how happy they were about us winning the Cup. They’re my biggest supporters and always have been. To see them on the ice in Boston after it was all over and we had won, that was an amazing experience.

At age 28, you signed a six-year contract extension. Goalies play into their 40s. Is there more pressure on you?

Again, I don’t feel pressure. This doesn’t feel like a job, because I love it. Is it a lot of money, what I’m making? Yes, it’s a lot of money, but I don’t think about that when it’s time to play. Money is not why I play hockey. We play for each other on this team. And Chicago is where I would like to play my whole career.

Do you like the idea that, after earning two Stanley Cups in four years, the Blackhawks have a target on their backs?

I like the fact that when we are champions, other teams bring their game up and try to beat us. That makes us better. And with the guys we have in our room, we all have the same mindset. What happened last season was tremendous, but it’s over. We won, we celebrated, and now we have to play another season. We have an organization of winners, and that’s the goal: to win it every season.

Made any speeches lately?

Nope. I’ve been banned from every podium in Chicago.

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