Joel Quenneville remembers skating on the ice in Chicago Stadium when the old barn was packed with screaming Blackhawks fans. It hasn't been too long since he brought his St. Louis Blues into the United Center to play key divisional games in front of the great Chicago fans.
Now that he's behind the bench for the resurgent Blackhawks, who lead the NHL in attendance this season by averaging 21,377 fans for their first 7 home games, Quenneville finally can enjoy what the Blackhawks' faithful offer.
"It's night and day," the Hawks coach told NHL.com. "It's a great motivator for our club. With their backing it creates a great environment with excitement and noise. The pace of the game is quicker when they're into it. It's been a great start. It's 21,000 every night. It has to be the greatest place to play."
The Hawks are 5-1-2 since Quenneville took over for Denis Savard on Oct. 16, and his philosophy of skating hard at all times, including practices, and pushing the puck forward whenever possible is becoming instinctive for the second-place club.
"We just wanted to make sure we played hard, bottom line," Quenneville said. "That's the prerequisite with every team. That's one standard that should always be there. We wanted to play harder and concentrate on a few things."
Quenneville praise Savard's choice of Jonathan Toews
as team captain despite that he's 20. He said he's been thoroughly impressed with the entire group, especially with second-year sensation Patrick Kane
Kane was a big Savard supporter, but he has rallied around Quenneville and now has 6 goals and 9 assists through 12 games.
"He's a special player," Quenneville said. "He's one of those guys who has really good patience and vision and awareness to what is going on. He knows how to go to those quiet areas. He's a great passer and offensively he's a gifted kid."
The Hawks' goaltending situation has been a hot topic of conversation throughout the NHL, especially in the media, all season. Will they trade Nikolai Khabibulin is maybe the most asked question.
Quenneville, though, doesn't understand what the big deal is all about.
He sees only positives out of having both Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet.
"I'm enjoying the big deal," he said. "It's a nice situation to be in when you're comfortable starting any one at any juncture. Both are deserving of playing and both have played really well. It's a healthy situation and both want to play, but they respect the position they're in and they are doing whatever they can to stop the puck."
Quenneville figures eventually the situation will iron itself out.
"When I say that I mean maybe one starts playing better than the other," he said. "Who knows? Right now we're comfortable with the way it is. You look around the League, in a lot of places now teams are having some tough times with (goaltending) and it's nice when you don't have to worry about it. I have been in situations where it can be an issue."