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One Goal III Excerpt: The Conductor

by Bob Verdi / Chicago Blackhawks

The following is an excerpt from "One Goal III: The Inside Story of the 2015 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks." The book goes on sale Tuesday, Nov. 10 at all Blackhawks Store locations or

The coaches are inseparable on the road, though they might see each other more than they see their wives. As the weather warmed during the grueling postseason run, it was commonplace for Quenneville, Kitchen, Dineen, Waite and Meacham to locate an outdoor space beside their hotel after dinner to enjoy cigars and a bottle of wine. They know how to laugh, and they know how to relax.

“We try to get Joel to pay,” Kitchen cracked. “Actually, in all honesty, it’s hard to get a check away from Joel.”

Until this past summer’s massive United Center renovation, Quenneville occupied a tiny, windowless office—hardly reflective of coaching royalty. But he does not preside over an imperial administration. Assistants have their in-game specialties: Kitchen, the defense and penalty kill; Dineen, the power play. Quenneville handles the forwards. Unlike with some staffs, however, the suggestion box is always open.

“We all talk about everything,” Dineen said. “Of course, we know who has the final vote. How often does Joel use the hammer? Rarely.”

“Joel is a perfectionist, but not really all that hands-on,” Kitchen added. “The guys love that, and so do we. He doesn’t want us sitting there nodding in agreement to everything he does or says. We challenge him if we have a strong opinion. But if it involves a particular incident, you’d better have your facts ready. And he has a great quality for a head coach: He is unpredictable.”

In a locker room he tours sparingly, Quenneville commands and expresses respect. He never throws players under the bus; they are aware of who is driving the bus. More than one has voiced regret about being unable to face him on the bench, because Coach Q owns a wide array of spirited histrionics that officials see rather distinctly. Players, however, can hear Quenneville loud and clear, particularly when he tosses out his go-to epithet. (Someone offered that nobody uses that particular word with quite the same gusto Q does.)

“I am a players’ coach,” Quenneville said. “I think they appreciate that I don’t go around screaming and yelling. I think they like that we have relatively short practices, that I don’t call practice just to call practice. And I know they like time to rest, stay fresh. Sometimes you gotta get away from the rink.”

Indeed, the Blackhawks get more days off than a college professor. It’s about trust. Quenneville let them be between Games 1 and 2 of the Final in Tampa. Their hotel was not far from the beach. But on a shiny afternoon, Brad Richards, who had played there, borrowed wheels to take Jonathan Toews and a couple other teammates to a place that makes juice. A supply of greenish health liquids, heavy on spinach, was on their flight from Chicago. It was already exhausted, so the Blackhawks went searching for spinach juice.

In Florida.

On a day off.

With the beach right over there.

And the pool a slapshot away.

“Very dedicated and responsible group,” Q praised. “When I played, we didn’t go looking for health juice.”

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