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THE VERDICT: Remembering Former Blackhawk Lou Angotti

Versatile, popular forward who played two stints in Chicago passed away last week at age 83

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

Lou Angotti, a versatile and popular forward during two stints with the Blackhawks, has died. He was 83.

"LOO!! LOO!! LOO!!"

Such was the Stadium soundtrack whenever Angotti hopped onto the ice, anxious for the action. A favorite handyman for head coach Billy Reay, the diminutive Angotti would do whatever was asked of him with diligence. At 5-foot-9, and 170 or so pounds, Angotti was not a lot of fun to play against. He might have lacked brawn, but he possessed a rich hockey IQ. And he could really skate with short, aggressive strides.

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THE VERDICT: On Ice and Off, Tony Esposito Brought Excellence

Hockey world mourns the loss of ultimate teammate and selfless friend Tony Esposito

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

Phil Esposito is on the phone, not doing well. He frequently joked about how he's the life of the party, while younger brother Tony was dour because of his occupation. Goalie. You know. Phil lit up a room and Tony emptied it. But that was all schtick, and now it's Phil who is shattered.

"Gone so fast," Phil rasped from his home in Florida. "I was gonna go up to their summer place in Wisconsin to fish. I told Tony that. He said, 'Come anytime, but don't bother fishing. You've never caught a fish in your life. Fish don't like you.' And we laughed. Oh, did we laugh. All the time. Take that mask off Tony, and he was hilarious. What a beauty. And gone. So soon. A few weeks ago, he called. He told me. Not good. Pancreatic cancer. Terminal."

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THE VERDICT: Fleury Puts Cap on Bolstered Roster

Youth movement adds pedigree with Marc-Andre Fleury, Seth Jones, Jake McCabe and Tyler Johnson on board

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

During an abridged 2021 schedule, the Blackhawks yielded 186 goals in 56 games. They did not qualify for the playoffs, nor did any team surrendering more goals than that and several allowing fewer.

Now then, logic often avoids participating in sports, but it would seem highly unlikely the Blackhawks will be so generous next season. The probability that they shall be tougher to score against and harder to oppose stems from a message sent just the other day.

"I'm in. Let's get to work."

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THE VERDICT: Ever-Humble Hjalmarsson Retires from NHL

Three-time Cup champion in Chicago quietly retires after 14 NHL seasons

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

It should not surprise anyone that the initial report about Niklas Hjalmarsson's retirement was just that. A report, somewhat cryptic.

This is not to impugn the work of Craig Morgan, an insider covering the Arizona Coyotes, where Hjalmarsson played the last four seasons after an illustrious run with the Blackhawks. On the contrary, the author cautioned that if we're anticipating a fancy farewell from Hjalmarsson, that's not his style. A declaration of world peace will come first.

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THE VERDICT: Esposito Brothers Know a Thing or Two About NHL Expansion

Nearly 30 years ago, former Blackhawks Phil and Tony Esposito were at the helm of building the expansion Tampa Bay Lightning

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

Everybody knows what Tony Esposito meant as a goalie and teammate. Hall of Famer with the Blackhawks, for whom he authored 15 shutouts as a rookie, still a modern record. Played hurt, played a lot, played with passion.

But what was "Tony O" like as a boss?  

"Great," recalled Denis Savard. "Same guy I knew from Chicago. Intense, but also knew how to laugh. And smart. Like his brother Phil. They knew the game. The Tampa Bay Lightning just won a second straight Stanley Cup. But if it wasn't for Tony and Phil, who knows?"

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THE VERDICT: Duncan Keith, the Quintessential Hockey Player

In nearly 100 years of Blackhawks history, no player did his job better than future Hall of Famer Duncan Keith

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

Be prepared. When the National Hockey League releases its 2021-22 schedule, somewhere within there shall be a date to be circled, highlighted, remembered.

When the Edmonton Oilers skate onto the United Center ice, a future Hall of Famer is going to merit a standing room only ovation, probably during the pregame skate.

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THE VERDICT: Stillman, Kurashev Following in Footsteps of Hockey Dads

Father's Day holds special meaning for duo making their way in pro hockey just like their dads

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

When Riley Stillman was young -- really, really young -- he naturally bonded with father Cory, an accomplished forward who would play more than 1,000 National Hockey League games. Because kids say the darndest things, Riley interrogated his buddies.

"I would ask them, 'Who does your dad play for?'" he recalled. "I spent a lot of time with mine, at games or bouncing around locker rooms, and figured everybody's dad played in the NHL. Until I realized not everybody's dad does. I was fortunate. I was lucky."

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THE VERDICT: United Center Rocks Again as Fans Return

Masked, socially distanced and in reduced numbers, fans returned on Sunday night for the first time since March 11, 2020

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

Rebuild it, and they will come. Masked, socially distanced, and in reduced numbers. But they will come, and did Sunday night, to be reunited at the United Center with their Blackhawks, even newer and younger than the team Chicago took a liking to before COVID-19 hijacked normal last year.

"WELCOME BACK FANS"

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THE VERDICT: Hard-Working Shaw Endeared Himself to Teammates, Fans

From a too-small, twice-undrafted teen to two-time Cup champion, Andrew Shaw worked for everything in 10-year career

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

For someone judged to be too small, Andrew Shaw built a nice career by proving that no task was too big.

Basically unknown and unloved by scouts, Shaw grunted and scrapped through hockey obscurity before debuting with the Blackhawks in January 2012. On his second shift, he had a fight. He scored on his first shot. By night's end, Shaw became instant royalty to another United Center sellout crowd, not because he intimidated opponents but because he bothered them.

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VERDICT: Bowman Acquires Deadline Assets While Adding for Stretch Run

With eyes set on the future, Blackhawks played role of neither buyer nor seller in busy deadline day

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

The Blackhawks didn't acquire another Antoine Vermette by Monday's trading deadline because they weren't in the market for another Antoine Vermette.

This isn't 2015. It's 2021, so Stan Bowman, president of hockey operations and general manager, did what he said he would do and has been doing since he committed the franchise to a rebuild. The past decade was extraordinary, the absolute best in Blackhawks' history, but it is time to move onward.

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