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FEATURE: Kunitz looking to pass on veteran knowledge

In new role as player development advisor, Blackhawks hope 15-year veteran can help shape next generation

by Chris Kuc @ChrisKuc /

When a four-time Stanley Cup champion - particularly one who played 15 seasons in the NHL despite not being drafted - talks, people listen.

At least that's what the Blackhawks hope with their hiring of Chris Kunitz as player development adviser in their hockey operations department.

"I think it's just trying to build those relationships like you have when you're a teammate," Kunitz said Wednesday of his new role in the development of young Blackhawks players both at the NHL and AHL levels. "You share experiences of things that worked for you and (it's) taking some of the knowledge that I have from different seasons and different organizations and try to help those kids develop into full-time NHLers.

"Being able to share some of the wisdom that other people have passed down to me is something that I'm looking forward to," Kunitz added. "I kind of did that the last couple of years of my career when you're accepting a new role on a team and I thought that would be kind of a good way to transition and still stay in the hockey world and talk hockey as much as I like to."

Kunitz took the job Tuesday after announcing his retirement from an NHL career that began when he signed with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003 as a free agent following four seasons at Ferris State University, and also featured stops with the Thrashers, Penguins and Lightning before concluding with the Blackhawks last season.

Video: Blackhawks honor Kunitz for 1,000 NHL games

The idea about remaining with the Blackhawks organization began during Kunitz's exit interview following the 2018-19 season and came to fruition with Tuesday's announcement.

"It's kind of a unique position," Kunitz said. "It's something that's going to evolve as time goes along and we see how it plays itself out. It's something that hopefully I can learn from sitting in meetings but also use the resources with the coaches and the staff. I'm just looking forward to kind of getting in there and learning on the fly but also sharing my knowledge and the resources I've had and trying to navigate the new waters for myself."

Kunitz will look to impart wisdom gleaned from a career that took him from college player to Stanley Cup champion with the Ducks in 2007 and Penguins in '09, '16 and '17. The Regina, Saskatchewan native played in 1,022 career NHL games, including 569 with the Penguins during which he scored 169 goals.

That experience should go a long way in helping guide young players as they begin their careers in the Blackhawks organization.

"When I did decide to go to Anaheim it still took me almost a year-and-a-half to figure out how you can make that adjustment and transition," Kunitz said. "I didn't have a big resource of NHL players that went to my school or guys that I knew to kind of talk you through it or almost ramp you up to get you into that kind of speed of the game. It took me a while to adjust on my own and … figure myself out and see how I can make a career out of this."

The 39-year-old Kunitz said the thing that he will miss the most about playing is the competition during each game.

"(It's when) you go out there and you battle and get into a little scrum in front of the net or whatever it is in some random game in December and … you look back at your bench and you know that not every day is going to be perfect and you can still fight through it together as a team," Kunitz said. "Trying to duplicate those kinds of things when you aren't playing anymore is going to be really tough.

"I don't think most guys are going to miss the skating in the summer and the working out to try and withstand a long season but I think it's those little moments when you're on the bench or you're on the ice and you rally around each other and have that fire growing inside of you to be at your best. That's something I don't think you can ever get back so I'm sure I'm going to miss those things the most."

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