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Verdict: Blackhawks spending New Year's Day outdoors again at Notre Dame

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

Come back with us to New Year's Day 2008, when the Blackhawks were just starting to feel like a breath of fresh air.

Rocky Wirtz was new in his role as Chairman of a troubled family heirloom, requiring a complete teardown he commissioned John McDonough to produce and direct. At home on that holiday, less than two months into his role as franchise President, McDonough watched the first Winter Classic featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the NFL's Bills.

McDonough, after a decorated career with the Chicago Cubs, was new to hockey, but not new to new. As snowflakes danced across his TV screen and Sidney Crosby scored in the shootout to provide the visitors a 2-1 victory before 71,217 fans, McDonough was enthralled. Why, he wondered, don't we get one of those?

McDonough broached the concept to National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman, who noted that the idea did not float unattended. McDonough, quipped Bettman, was politely persistent. Phone calls brought traction, then action. On New Year's Day 2009, the Blackhawks hosted the defending Stanley Cup champions and Marian Hossa at Wrigley Field. The Detroit Red Wings won 6-4, with 40,818 in attendance on a crisp afternoon.

"We lost," recalled captain Jonathan Toews, "but it was the rebirth of the Blackhawks."

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The Verdict: Secord Provided Scoring, Peace of Mind

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

This article was originally posted on April 7, 2010. Secord will take the ice for One More Shift on Nov. 12 before the Blackhawks host the New Jersey Devils.


Al Secord rarely went looking for trouble, but when trouble beckoned, he was ready and able to oblige. He was tougher than a $2 steak, and more often than not, Secord's mood had nothing whatsoever to do with self-preservation.

"With Al around, I always had peace of mind when I stepped on the ice," recalls Secord's erstwhile center man, Hall of Famer Denis Savard. "He was always there to protect me, to protect any of us. I had to tone him down every once in a while. Somebody might get rough with me, and he said, 'Well, Savy, I'll see you in five minutes.' He was gonna go fight the guy."

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Blackhawks Magazine Excerpt: Celebrating 19 and 88

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

The following is excerpted from the October 2017 issue of Blackhawks Magazine, which celebrates 10 years of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Pick up a copy at the next Blackhawks home game, or by calling the Blackhawks Store at 312-759-0079.

If you think bobblehead giveaways attract attention, watch the ice when Patrick Kane is present on the right wing. Opponents gather around whether he has the puck or not. He can thread a pass through a keyhole with those magical hands, and can score from anywhere -- even while horizontal, as he did against the Montreal Canadiens last November. Bobby Hull cites Kane as among the best ever at handling the puck while speed-skating.

Jonathan Toews, a center, has performed with numerous linemates, as has Kane. No. 19 is strong of body and mind, always conscious of the risk-reward element endemic to his pedigree, which is based on monitoring the entire rink. Whether that has affected his offensive possibilities is an issue he will not duck. As a baseball manager says on a trip to the mound to counsel a pitcher who wants to strike out every batter, there's a reason you have eight teammates wearing gloves.

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Verdict: Bickell tribute, 10 goals mark near-perfect opening night

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

The Blackhawks promised to enter this season in a state of ill humor, but 10-1? Against hockey royalty? The twice-running Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins?

Thursday night could only have been more perfect for the Blackhawks if this were their last game in June rather than their first game in October. They scored four goals inside three minutes of the first period, or more goals than they scored inside the United Center and Bridgestone Arena during April's playoff capitulation against the Nashville Predators. Good thing the Blackhawks were 0-for-6 on the power play, or this really would have gotten out of hand.

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Verdict: Pilote, an outlier in his era, was the heart of the Blackhawks

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

Pierre Pilote, a Hall of Fame defenseman who won a Stanley Cup and three consecutive Norris Trophies with the Blackhawks, has died. He was 85.

Pilote was a latecomer who evolved into a perennial all-star. Born in Kenogami, Quebec, he moved with his family to Fort Erie, Ontario, where the only rink in town was destroyed in a storm. So, at age 14, he drifted to baseball. He did not play organized hockey until he was 17, and then as a center. With a crowd at that position, his coach switched Pilote to the blue line.

"I had to learn how to play there," he recalled, "but I was still inclined to think offensively."

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Verdict: Sharp, Saad happy to be home in Chicago

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

Needing no introduction, Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad received one anyway at the Blackhawks' 10th Annual Convention. During the Opening Ceremonies, both were accorded a rousing welcome. A day later, the International Ballroom at the Hilton Chicago was standing room only for a panel discussion ­- "more people than used to be at some of our games when I first got here," noted Sharp. During a break in the action, Sharp and Saad talked with chicagoblackhawks.com.

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Verdict: Blackhawks make big changes in latest salary cap test

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

One cannot live by Bread Man alone, and Artemi Panarin surely will be missed.

But with the most rigid salary cap in professional sports, change is imperative throughout the National Hockey League. Thus the Blackhawks, who have been there and done that, will look quite different when the 2017-18 schedule commences this October.

After a couple of significant trades followed by a spate of free agent signings, the Blackhawks intend to be younger, bigger, faster, deeper and, with the return of popular Patrick Sharp, even handsomer. Will they be as good or better than the team that won the Western Conference last season with 109 points, the second-highest total in franchise history?

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Verdict: Generations of Blackhawks draft picks converge on Day 1

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

Nico, Miro, Jusso, Urho.

These are names to be played later, but the one that matters most to the Blackhawks now is Henri Jokiharju, their first prize in Friday night's National Hockey League Draft at the United Center, where evidence of the sport's globalization was all over the board.

The Blackhawks have been watching Jokiharju for a while -- as recently as earlier this week at drills held nearby. But he's been watching them too.

"When they won the Stanley Cup in 2010, I saw them on TV," the Finnish right defenseman said. "It was maybe four in the morning at home in Helsinki. I became a fan of them then, the way they play, the style. Now to be selected by them, it's unbelievable."

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Verdict: Hits, misses and tweeners all a part of draft history

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

There is a litany of hits, misses and tweeners since the National Hockey League Draft was instituted in 1963. So it has been, and so it will be when the United Center becomes the sport's epicenter on June 23.

The host Blackhawks, with three Stanley Cups this decade, are Exhibit A in how to build a championship core through the judicious selection of youth and skillful development of same. Having finished atop the Western Conference during the regular season, the Blackhawks will draft 26th in the first round. Their recent reign is based on exemplary selections, some of which occurred while the franchise wobbled.

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Verdict: NHL Draft, not always a league feature, arrives in Chicago

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

When the National Hockey League Draft convenes at the United Center on June 23, officials and spectators doubtless will be taken with two monuments to excellence beside the building -- statues of Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull, Blackhawks Hall of Famers.

More than a half-century after they arrived in Chicago, they remain 1-2 as all-time scorers for this storied Original Six franchise that was digging itself out of a dark hole during the late 1950s. Hull debuted in 1957, Mikita's first full season occurred in 1959, and by 1961 the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup champions.

This represented a transformation for an organization so unloved and unsuccessful that several home games only years before were shifted to neutral cites -- Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Omaha -- amidst whispers that the NHL pondered relocating the Blackhawks to St. Louis.

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