|Pierre Pilote (left) and Kevin Magnuson at the inaugural Blackhawks Convention in July. |
With the number retirement of Pierre Pilote and Keith Magnuson just a day away, the current Blackhawks took a moment to after practice to talk about their predecessors and the special night ahead.
“When there’s a number retired, it’s always for the right reasons,” said Brent Sopel. “It will be a fun night and it’s a great night to do it against Boston, who’s an Original Six team.”
“It’s nice to have a fellow defenseman get recognized,” said Duncan Keith
. “Sometimes defensemen aren’t in the limelight like forwards because we’re not scoring goals like they are. Any time a defenseman gets recognition, we always appreciate that.”
For Jonathan Toews
, the night is a chance to reflect on what the future can hold for this current Blackhawks team. Both Pilote and Magnuson were fixtures in postseason play, and Pilote was a member of the Hawks’ last Stanley Cup team in 1961.
“It’s a reminder of what we’re playing for,” Toews said. “The night is special for the players who are playing right now, too. It’s always good to remember the players who were in this locker room before you.”
“These guys are legends,” said Adam Burish. “People think about the Hawks, and those are the guys they think about. When we say we're bringing back hockey in Chicago, we [mean bringing it back] to where those guys were.”
Head Coach Joel Quenneville, who played against Magnuson and is one of only a few people in the Hawks’ locker room old enough to have seen Pilote play, said that the night is special because of what both men meant to Blackhawks hockey.
“They’re two special players,” he said. “[Magnuson and Pilote] are two guys who represented the organization with pride. It should make for a special night.”
“I appreciate the time the organization takes to recognize these guys,” said Burish. “I know when they brought back Hull, Esposito and Mikita last year, that was something you remember. All of the guys on the bench stand and you get the chills. I’m sure it will be the same tomorrow.”
Special teams becoming Hawks’ strength
Though they’re only 13 games into the season, one dramatic change for the Hawks from last season has been special teams play on both ends of the ice.
Last season, the Blackhawks converted on 15.9 percent of their power plays and successfully killed 81.1 percent while they were a man down. This season, those numbers are up to 22 percent and 90.6 percent, respectively.
“Our special teams have really done well all year long. We want to continue in that order,” said Quenneville. “I think that’s the type of thing we try to build on as a team. If we have that mentality of thinking from a defensive side of things, it will enhance the offense.”
“We’ve been doing a really good job keeping the pressure on them and knowing when to jump on them [on the power play]. We’re all communicating out there and the little things are making a big difference,” said Keith. “[On the penalty kill], we’re taking every chance we can get, making the saves and blocking the shots and doing a good job with that.”
Quenneville said that while both areas of special teams are on track right now, it’s important to keep improving of all aspects of the game. The Hawks will eventually have to find a way to win when they’re special teams aren’t producing at this rate.
“Offensively, we’ve got enough weapons where we should be able to produce on the power play,” he said. “But you always go through stretches, good and bad. Let’s not get too excited and carried away with it.”
The Hawks know if they succeed, special teams will be a big reason why.
“Special teams play wins and loses games,” said Sopel. “It can build momentum. It’s definitely a big thing for us.”