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THE VERDICT: Roenick's draft memories

Team Historian Bob Verdi writes about Jeremy Roenick, who the team selected eighth overall in 1988

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

It is always advisable for a young man entering the National Hockey League to exercise humility. But Jeremy Roenick, whose physique was a cross between a thermometer and a 2-iron, took bashful to an extreme when he first showed up with the Blackhawks in 1988.

"I was afraid to take my shirt off," he recalled. "I was 158 pounds. Before the draft that summer, my agent, Neil Abbott, told me never to appear in public with my shirt off because he didn't want teams to see how skinny I was.

"Well, after Chicago took me, I was still skinny and I saw all these big guys around me in camp like Dave Manson and Al Secord and Dan Vincelette who were ripped. You know how locker rooms are. Guys walk around naked. Not me. I would go into the bathroom stall to dress and undress. I looked like a marathon runner. The coach, Mike Keenan, gave me these football pads to wear under my jersey so I'd appear bigger."

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THE VERDICT: Keith Magnuson's son carries on Special Olympics tradition

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

Kevin Magnuson is sleeping fast these days. There is his real job as an agent representing numerous hockey players. Then there is this massive global celebration coming to Soldier Field in July: the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics. Thousands of athletes from 172 countries will participate, and as president of Special Olympics Chicago, Kevin is the chief cook and bottle washer.

Call him very busy, but don't call him for a parking pass. Also, rest assured that this acorn did not fall far from an icon. His father, Keith, was a beloved member of the Blackhawks, a serial giver whose No. 3 banner hangs above the United Center not only because of how he played with so much heart, but how he lived his life with such verve.

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Former Blackhawks forward Earl Balfour passes away at age 85

Balfour, a member of the Blackhawks 1961 Stanley Cup Champions, has died

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

Earl Balfour, a member of the Blackhawks' 1961 Stanley Cup Champions, has died. He was 85.

Balfour was a defensive forward who specialized in killing penalties. He began his brief National Hockey League career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but was claimed by the Blackhawks in the intra-league draft in June, 1958. After several years of struggling, the Blackhawks were building a solid roster that would include Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Glenn Hall.

Balfour, nicknamed "Spider", played in 208 games over three seasons for the Blackhawks, scoring 16 goals. He played all 12 playoff games during their magical 1961 run that included a significant upset of the Montreal Canadiens, who had won five consecutive Cups but were eliminated by the Blackhawks in the semi finals. The Blackhawks went on to win the Cup against the Detroit Red Wings.

Two months after that, the Boston Bruins claimed Balfour, but he did not play again in the NHL. After his reinstatement as an amateur, he was player-coach with the Galt Hornets of the Ontario Hockey Association. He later played with the Toronto Marlboros, where he began his hockey career.

According to a family remembrance published in the Toronto Star, Balfour was father of nine children: Penny, Peggy, Patti, Paul, Peter, Pamela, Piper, Patrick and Parker.

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Verdict: Sharp a key part of the perfect Blackhawks storm

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

This just in. Patrick Sharp also knew.

For years, some of us have obeyed the urban legend that only two players were aware, in real time, of the clinching goal when the Blackhawks won the 2010 Stanley Cup: Patrick Kane, who shot it, and Michael Leighton, who missed it.

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Verdict: Hockey world one big family

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

As Patrick Sharp circled the rink after his final game at the United Center, fellow Blackhawks who choreographed this grand farewell stood by their bench, tapping sticks on the ice, joining a season-high crowd of 22,218 in saluting a true professional.

Yet, look here, only a few feet away, there were the St. Louis Blues, who had registered a 4-1 victory, but faced a plane flight to Denver for a crucial season finale the very next night.

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Verdict: Those who built it deserve a chance to fix it

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

A number of Blackhawks mention the word "sideways" in describing their unusually chilly winter. "Backwards" also applies. They strafed the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, 10-1, to begin the regular schedule. But the franchise mandate for a decade has been about endeavoring the make the last game, not the first, a season's signature.

Alas, it never happened. No National Hockey League team has been forced to part with more quality players because of the hard salary cap, so a regression from the norm was as inevitable as it was unwelcome. It was as though, for six restless months, the Blackhawks went foraging about, looking for that pilot light, for consistency of energy and execution.

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Between the Dots: Foster's night one he'll never forget

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

On a Thursday night that surely will be remembered as a highlight in the Scott Foster era, Brent Seabrook's landmark 1,000th regular-season game felt like old news by the time the Blackhawks finished off the Winnipeg Jets, 6-2, at the United Center.

Seabrook, a rock on defense since 2005, was honored with a fine ceremony featuring family and friends and flowers. He does not like the spotlight, so he had to be grateful that good old No. 90 absolutely stole it at the end of an evening that bordered on the occult.

"I'll be back at my desk tomorrow morning," promised Foster, a 36-year-old accountant who hadn't played a game that mattered since he toiled for Western Michigan University about the time Seabrook was breaking into the National Hockey League.

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Verdict: Seabrook a symbol of revival

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

When Brent Seabrook made his debut with the Blackhawks, the hockey world was not watching, nor was the United Center full of people or anticipation. The team was down, and the league was trying to heal from a dark, cold winter. An entire season had been cancelled because of a lockout, a six-month bye barely noticed by a dwindling fan base in Chicago.

The Blackhawks lost to Anaheim, 5-3, on Oct. 5, 2005, with Seabrook registering an assist. When the baby-faced defenseman added four more in a rare victory two nights later, he looked the part of a prospect who might be around for a while, perhaps a future fixture after another teardown. The Blackhawks were big on those - and also false hopes.

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Blackhawks Magazine Excerpt: Thinking Big

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

The following is excerpted from the January 2018 issue of Blackhawks Magazine, which focuses on Alex DeBrincat's transition to the NHL. Pick up a copy at the next Blackhawks home game, or by calling the Blackhawks Store at 312-759-0079.

In late November, you registered a hat trick-or 'Cat Trick'-and were the second-youngest Blackhawk ever to do so, just four days older than Jeremy Roenick.
That was one of those nights where the puck was just kind of ending up on my stick. Schmaltzy (Nick Schmaltz) made a great pass to me on the first one. We had a good cycle going on the second, and I had a wide-open net after Hartzy (Ryan Hartman) made a play. Third one, Kaner passed to me on a 2-on-1. You knew he would. Got to credit the guys I was playing with. One of those nights. I didn't think it would happen so quickly.

You appear to be confident, but not cocky. Are you at all surprised that you've made it to the NHL?
You never have it made. You can't get too comfortable. I went into training camp with the mindset that anything could happen. My goal obviously was to make the Blackhawks, but I was ready to go to their minor-league team in Rockford if I needed to. Honestly, I was kind of planning in the back of my mind to be in Rockford this year. But I showed up at camp ready to give it my best effort and work hard every day. I didn't want to get my hopes too high, because there are guys who could be up here instead of me.

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Verdict: Offensively-minded Oesterle's time has come

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

Jordan Oesterle, an outsider early this season, now was simply outnumbered. Three Winnipeg Jets stormed into Blackhawks territory last Friday night at the United Center, intent on tying a tight game.

Oesterle, the lone defender between them and goalie Jeff Glass, retreated carefully, staking out the middle as Kyle Connor cradled the puck on the right.

"He's a left shot, on his offside, so I tried to bait him into passing it across (to Dustin Byfuglien)," recalled Oesterle. "I wasn't too concerned about the trailing guy (Josh Morrissey). I just tried to stay patient. If I commit too soon to Connor, he'll just pass it. As we got down low, with less space available, I slid toward him with my stick extended in front of me, basically covering maybe a 12-foot area, including my body."

Deftly, Oesterle whisked the puck out of danger, stifling the rush. Moments later, Jan Rutta scored what would be the winning goal in a 2-1 victory.

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