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THE VERDICT: Hockey blue blood Quenneville has made his mark

Team Historian Bob Verdi writes about Joel Quenneville's impact on Chicago sports, on the 10th anniversary of him taking over as the Blackhawks coach

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

For Joel Quenneville, it's now mind over madder. Once upon a time, while running a National Hockey League bench, he felt compelled to multitask by imploring referees and linesmen to perform their jobs better.

"But I don't chirp as much anymore… I've mellowed," says Quenneville, who is marking the 10th anniversary of his installation as head coach of the Blackhawks.

Just the other night, during pregame introductions at the United Center, a visiting dignitary strolled by in the press box. (Granted, if a dignitary is among us types, he or she must be visiting.) But that's not the story here.

"Did the fans just boo your coach?" inquired the guest.

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THE VERDICT: Heart and drive propel Keith to career milestone

Team Historian Bob Verdi writes about Duncan Keith, his career and the celebration of his 1,000th NHL game

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

Duncan Keith played his 1,000th game for the Blackhawks Saturday night. That's a lot of action for a man who, as a child, often heard warnings about how his average frame might not quite belong in the National Hockey League.

Video: Believe in Legacy, Believe in One Goal

Denis Savard also quashed that notion and went to the Hall of Fame. So has Patrick Kane, and he's going to the Hall of Fame. What the size police keep missing is the unmistakable truism that heart and drive are essentials, moreso than height and weight. A scale that measures devotion to duty has yet to be invented.

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THE VERDICT: Conversation with Keith

Team Historian Bob Verdi sat down with Duncan Keith to discuss his upcoming career milestone of 1,000 games

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

By playing in his 1,000th game this Saturday night, Duncan Keith will become just the sixth member of the Blackhawks to do so in franchise history. He's won three Stanley Cups, two Norris Trophies and has established himself as one of the best defensemen in the National Hockey League. Called a "cyborg" by Sports Illustrated, this marathon man logs massive minutes, and here he spends a few with

VERDI: You've accomplished a lot during your career, and now you match your pal, Brent Seabrook, by playing your 1,000th game for the Blackhawks. You don't get too wrapped up in personal achievements, but what does this mean to you?

KEITH: I'm definitely proud. It wasn't something I set out to do, for sure, but as I got closer I realized that, yeah, it's a cool number. There aren't that many players who have made it to 1,000 games in the National Hockey League, so it's an honor to be in that group. But I want to keep going.

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THE VERDICT: The faceoff that didn't count, but still mattered

Team Historian Bob Verdi writes about the opening night ceremonies that honored the late Stan Mikita

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

She had dropped the ceremonial first puck an hour ago. But now, among family and friends in a United Center suite, Jill Mikita was still working the tissues.

"It's been overwhelming," she said. "Stan would have thought this was too much. Playing hockey was his job, and he did it well, but he didn't go around acting like a star. I mean, if he had to at home, he washed the floors. So he wouldn't have wanted all this fuss."

Video: TOR@CHI: Blackhawks pay tribute to Stan Mikita

Sunday night, before the Blackhawks staged their home opener, they bade farewell to Stan Mikita, a Hall of Famer who played his entire career here, lived here, and loved it here until he passed away in August at age 78.

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THE VERDICT: Ab McDonald was prophetic ahead of 1961 Stanley Cup

McDonald, who passed away early in September at the age of 82, foresaw a Cup win in 1961 and did his part with an important goal

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

Ab McDonald scored one of the most important goals in the history of the Blackhawks, and, appropriately, it was more about the art of work than a work of art.

On April 16, 1961, the Blackhawks led the Stanley Cup Final, three games to two, and were tied with the Red Wings, 1-1, in Game 6 at Detroit's Olympia. Reggie Fleming had given the visitors a mighty boost with a shorthanded goal. Then, late in the second period, Bobby Hull, wearing No. 16, burst toward the Red Wings' net. Neither he nor goalie Hank Bassen gained control of the puck, so McDonald, a burly winger, entered a crowd and nudged home a tiny tap-in at 18:49 to afford the Blackhawks a 2-1 advantage. Hull assisted, along with Stan Mikita, and the Blackhawks never looked back.

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THE VERDICT: History against the Leafs

With the 2018-19 home opener announced as a date with the Maple Leafs, Bob Verdi looks back on the history between the two franchises

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

*This story was originally published on June 20, 2018*

During this defining decade, the Blackhawks have staged three truly exceptional home openers. In 2010, 2013 and 2015, they began the season as defending Stanley Cup champions. Before a puck was dropped, a banner was raised.

That won't be happening this autumn, but for starters, here is a circle for your calendar. The Toronto Maple Leafs, venerable Original Six adversaries, will invade the United Center on Sunday, Oct. 7. It will be the 650th regularly programmed confrontation between these rivals, not to mention or forget nine playoff series, many of them impolite.

Among other notable home debuts, the United Center christening on Jan. 25, 1995, surely qualifies. With the National Hockey League campaign delayed by a management-labor impasse, the Blackhawks finally commenced an abbreviated 48-game schedule by defeating the Edmonton Oilers, 5-1. Joe Murphy scored the first goal in the shiny new building, assisted by Jeremy Roenick and Chris Chelios.

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FEATURE: Remembering Mikita Part III - Forever a Blackhawk

Team Historian Bob Verdi writes about the late Stan Mikita in a three-part series

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

This is the third piece of a three-part written obituary series by Team Historian Bob Verdi on Stan Mikita, who passed away on Tuesday, Aug. 7.

As a youngster on the 1961 championship team, Stan Mikita figured more Stanley Cups would follow. All the Blackhawks felt that way, but it wasn't to be. Despite some excellent regular seasons, the Blackhawks came up short in the playoffs - occasionally bedeviled by a hot goalie such as Terry Sawchuk of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1967, the same year the Blackhawks overcame the "Curse of Muldoon" and finished atop the National Hockey League standings, a first for them.

Ten years after that fourth Cup, the Blackhawks were poised to claim their fifth. However, after winning the first two games of the 1971 Final, and holding a 2-0 lead in Game 7 at the Stadium, they bowed to the Montreal Canadiens, 3-2. That bitter defeat haunted Mikita.

Still, he continued to gather goals, assists and acclaim while leaving an imprint on the sport. Quite by accident during a scrimmage, Mikita discovered the wonders of a curved stick. Upon being checked into the boards, he found that his conventional straight stick blade jammed into the crack in the doorway that opened and closed by the players' bench. Mikita noticed that the blade had been bent slightly, but since it was late in practice, he saw no need to call downstairs for a replacement.

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FEATURE: Remembering Mikita Part II - A superstar emerges and evolves

Team Historian Bob Verdi writes about the late Stan Mikita in a three-part series

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

This is the second piece of a three-part written obituary series by Team Historian Bob Verdi on Stan Mikita, who passed away on Tuesday, Aug. 7.

Stan Mikita made his National Hockey League debut as an emergency callup during the 1958-59 season. Rudy Pilous, Stan's junior coach who had been promoted to the Blackhawks, summoned the prodigy to the big show. Against the Montreal Canadiens at the Stadium, Pilous tapped Mikita to take a faceoff against Jean Beliveau, a legend in the making.

"He was a towering presence on the ice, around 6-foot-5, had to outweigh me by 60 pounds," Mikita recounted in his "Forever A Blackhawk" autobiography. "I look up at him from the circle and I wound up staring at his belly button. That's how tall he was. My knees were shaking. My head was spinning."

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THE VERDICT: The soul of the Blackhawks

Team Historian Bob Verdi writes a fitting tribute to who he calls the least pretentious superstar you could imagine

by Bob Verdi /

Stan Mikita theorized that if he ever put his life story into words and presented it to some movie mogul, the script would be tossed back to him in a Hollywood minute on the grounds that it read like fiction.

But Mikita's extraordinary tale was real because he was real. He was the least pretentious superstar you could imagine. Nevermind how he handled the puck. It was about how he handled people. He cut his own grass, answered his own phone, and if you were a neighbor awakening after an overnight blizzard, you might peer out at your driveway and discover that it had been cleared by a snow angel.

As an icon in the Blackhawks' locker room, Mikita was beloved by the guys. Not by imposing his lofty status, he would mentor upcoming superstars like Denis Savard and Doug Wilson as willingly as he would talk to-and, just as significantly, listen to-- a fourth line winger. If you were a wide-eyed kid hoping to make the team as a rookie like Bob Murray, you would get a phone call in the hotel room of a strange city inviting you to dinner with Stan and wife Jill at their house.

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FEATURE: Remembering Mikita Part I - A Young Life Changed

Team Historian Bob Verdi writes about the late Stan Mikita in a three-part series

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

This is the first of a three-part written obituary series by Team Historian Bob Verdi on Stan Mikita, who passed away on Tuesday, Aug. 7.

Stan Mikita, a Hall of Fame center who played his entire career with the Blackhawks, has died. He was 78.

A transformational figure in hockey history, Mikita retired in 1980 after 22 seasons with the Blackhawks. Still, his resume shines. Mikita is the all-time franchise leader in points (1,467), games played (1,394), assists (926), and with 541 goals ranks second only to Bobby Hull.

Mikita remains as the only player in National Hockey League annals to earn the Art Ross, Hart and Lady Byng trophies in consecutive seasons (1966-67 and 1967-68). He also won the Art Ross as the league's leader in points in 1964 and 1965. Mikita contributed 11 points in 12 games toward a Stanley Cup in 1961, was a first team All-Star six times, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983.

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