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THE VERDICT: Looking Back at Chicago's First Jersey Retirement

39 years ago today, the Blackhawks retired Stan Mikita's No. 21 to the rafters of Chicago Stadium

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

Wayne Gretzky graced the United Center Monday night, an executive now with a franchise he made famous, the Edmonton Oilers. Smooth as ever, the Great One reminisced about his National Hockey League arrival.

"Right across the street at the Stadium, October of 1979, opener for both teams," he mused. "I'm a nervous kid, and my first faceoff is against Stan Mikita. Legend. And my father Walter's favorite player."

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THE VERDICT: New Scoreboard Takes Game Experience to Next Level

United Center's $14.5 million offseason addition wows during regular season debut

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

I went to a hockey game Thursday night and a scoreboard broke out.

The Blackhawks misspent four different one-goal leads and dropped their home opener to the San Jose Sharks, 5-4, before 21,455 at the United Center. It was not a defensive gem for either squad, but rather the kind of track meet that finds coaches mulling strange thoughts about their career paths.

Otherwise, the star of the show was the new scoreboard, a stunning addition that got a workout. This amazing structure, hovering above center ice, dispenses puffs of smoke, or fog, whenever the Blackhawks score a goal. That, coupled with a throbbing sound system, offers customers everything they could possibly want, except maybe a beer tap. You might even go two or three hours without checking your phone.

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THE VERDICT: Olczyk Born to Beat the Odds

Former Blackhawk and TV analyst details on- and off-ice battles in new book "Eddie Olczyk: Beating the Odds in Hockey and Life"

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

To a generation of young fans who don't quite grasp his hair restoration billboards, Eddie Olczyk is the ultimate TV companion. He expertly analyzes the Blackhawks most of the time, with NBC some of the time, deploying humor, candor and an active telestrator. When he freezes the screen, it is an instant tutorial. He was born to do this, except he also did something else.

"Did you ever play?"

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THE VERDICT: Nylander proud to build on family, Swedish legacy in Chicago

Growing up a Blackhawks and Patrick Kane fan, Nylander excited for fresh start with father's former club

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

Before us rests a copy of the 2002-03 Blackhawks Media Guide. But it does not rest for long because Alex Nylander, one of several new faces in town, sees a picture on the cover.

"That's my dad, Michael," he says. "Wearing 92, which is what I hope to wear now. Cool number, and I'd like to keep it in the family."

Michael played three serviceable seasons in Chicago. Problem is, only weeks after the book arrived, he departed.

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THE VERDICT: Blackhawks better because they're deeper

Acquisitions of Shaw, Carpenter improve Chicago's forward pool while Lehner, de Haan, Maatta add defensively

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

It is reasonable to expect that the Blackhawks are better in July than they were in January. Nor would it feel like a reach to anticipate that the return of Andrew Shaw next season will provide an element lacking last season.

For example, the Blackhawks in March faced a pivotal back-to-back weekend assignment against the Colorado Avalanche. In the opener at Denver, however, it wasn't about the altitude, but the attitude. Goalie Philipp Grubauer was on a tear for the Avs, and the Blackhawks did not do much to break his momentum. They eschewed partaking of or creating havoc before him, lost 4-2, and fell six points behind Colorado in the chase for a playoff berth.

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THE VERDICT: Well-rounded Dach the Blackhawks top choice for weeks

Blackhawks believe Dach could be 2019 draft's best product in years to come

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

VANCOUVER - If you are wondering why the Blackhawks chose Kirby Dach, they have reason to believe that you are in for a pleasant surprise.

Dach, as in "rock," could be a star waiting to happen.

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THE VERDICT: WHL centers Dach, Cozens set to make NHL jump

Among a plethora of centers atop the draft board, friendly foes battle it out to be WHL's best

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

VANCOUVER - It isn't often that you'll find a thundering herd of writers at a yacht club, yet here we are in a world-class city on a shiny Thursday at a marina. And, we aren't even in our usual state, marinated.

The only time I've ever been on a boat, it had "Wendella" written on the side. But this special occasion is to interview a few of the very elite prospects who will be selected quickly at Friday evening's National Hockey League Draft.

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THE VERDICT: Former third overall pick Strome finally finding his place

As a former No. 3 pick, Dylan Strome knows what lies ahead for the Blackhawks top selection in 2019

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

Not quite an overnight sensation, Dylan Strome will be watching when the Blackhawks select from the lofty third spot at Friday evening's National Hockey League Draft in Vancouver.

Strome, here in Chicago, shall not be asked to advise the next prodigy. But if he were, he would speak as a wizened soul belying his age, 22.

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THE VERDICT: Crawford in Chicago to serve

The Blackhawks newest assistant coach spoke with Bob Verdi about three decades in the game and what lies ahead in Chicago

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

Here's a given. As a recently-appointed Blackhawks assistant, Marc Crawford brings acumen, experience and even championship jewelry to Head Coach Jeremy Colliton's staff. 

What we really want to know is this: how was it to have Troy Murray on your bench? En route to a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996, did Crawford have any premonition that Murray would become the popular analyst on WGN Radio's award-winning broadcast team beside John Wiedeman?

During stoppages in play, did Troy just start talking? Reading commercials? Dissecting a scoring play?

  
 

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THE VERDICT: Golf clap for the Blues?

Team Historian Bob Verdi wonders whether it might be time for Blackhawks fans to do the unthinkable

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

Is it okay now for hockey fans in Chicago to root, sort of, for the St. Louis Blues?

Wait. Please don't leave. This is just a one-timer, and for two weeks max. Then you can all return to regularly scheduled hostility.

It's just that, with the Blues involved in the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins, maybe supporters of the Blackhawks can briefly shelve past grudges and support a vintage rival? It's about pride in the Western Conference, the Central Division, time zone bias. Besides, if the Bruins prevail, it will mean three current champions in one city, along with the Red Sox and Patriots. Is this necessary? That hasn't happened since the mid-1930s, when Detroit's Tigers, Lions and Red Wings ruled simultaneously.

Also, during this past regular season, St. Louis won just one of five games against the Blackhawks. Bragging rights. That matters too, no?

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