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FEATURE: Night before draft was most nerve-wracking for Dave Bolland

Blackhawks 2013 Stanley Cup Final hero reminisces on his draft night 15 years later

by Chris Kuc / Blackhawks.com

VANCOUVER - Dave Bolland settled into his seat at TD Garden for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Blues and Bruins a week ago and took in his surroundings.

"We were actually six rows up from where I scored the goal," Bolland said on the eve of the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver. "The buddies I was with were like, 'how surreal is this? Not too long ago you were winning the Stanley Cup here.' It was a pretty funny moment sitting down and retracing those steps of 2013 and scoring that goal."

"That goal," of course, was the game-winner for the Blackhawks over the Bruins in Game 6 of 2013 Stanley Cup Final and cemented Bolland's legacy among Chicago sports lore.

The goal scored 17 seconds after Bryan Bickell had tied the game was the crowning moment of Bolland's NHL career, which began when the Mimico, Ontario, native was selected in the second round (32nd overall) by the Blackhawks in the 2004 NHL Draft in Raleigh, N.C.

Memories of that draft came flooding back to Bolland, who is in Vancouver to support several draft hopefuls who played for the OHL London Knights, an organization Bolland has been helping in recent seasons.

So while the likes of Jack Hughes, Kaapo Kakko, Alex Turcotte, Bowen Byram, Trevor Zegras, Dylan Cozens and Kirby Dach, among others, await their fates during Friday night's first round, Bolland knows what they are experiencing.

"The night before was nerve-wracking," Bolland, 33, said. "You're sitting there trying to figure out where you're going to go. For me, was it would I go in the first round or second round? At that time the big hype was going in the first round but I'm actually glad I went second round to the Blackhawks. Everything is history from there."

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The original dream for Bolland after he was an offensive force for the Knights was to be a first-round selection but he soon realized the second round would provide a quicker path to the NHL.

"I was excited because the Hawks weren't doing too well for a few years and those teams picking from 20-30 were all top good teams," Bolland said. "So I thought going in the second round to a team that wasn't so great would create more opportunities for me. When my name was called I was the happiest person there. Not being picked in the first round sometimes is the better option."

The Blackhawks were among the 15-20 teams with which Bolland had interviewed prior to the draft and he remembers then-general manager Dale Tallon asking about his siblings.

"I had three brothers who were bigger than me and they knew that so they were hoping I was going to be big like them," Bolland said with a laugh. "It took a while but things panned out."

Being drafted was a dream cone true for Bolland, who grew up a Maple Leafs fan and lived and breathed hockey from a young age.

"It's one of those things where you work so hard," Bolland said. "When I was young I would go to school and then during the winter time go out of the ice and play hockey. When it was warm we'd play road hockey. It was hockey, hockey, hockey. It was our life. So to have that moment and have your name called at the draft was a huge moment."

Due to a debilitating ankle injury that will require surgery sometime in the future and a balky back, Bolland hasn't played in the NHL since appearing in 25 games for the Panthers during the 2015-16 season. He has spent the last three seasons as a member of the Arizona Coyotes, but only in name as he was never expected to take the ice due to his injuries.

Bolland's contract expired after the '19-20 season and he said he is officially retired from the NHL.

Besides helping out on the ice with the Knights in his current home of London, Ontario, Bolland has been playing golf and doing some reflection on a career that peaked while he was with the Blackhawks from 2006-13.

"It's crazy how fast it goes by," Bolland said. "I didn't see myself being done right now and being retired and have my career end like it did with my ankle and all that. It does slide by but I'm just happy I was with the Hawks and won Cups with them. My love is with Chicago, I miss Chicago a lot."

The 2019 NHL Draft begins with the first round on Friday, June 21 at 7 p.m. CT from Rogers Place in Vancouver, British Columbia. For full coverage, visit blackhawks.com/draft

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