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
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.
"I was annoying," Shaw was saying Monday, a day he stepped away from a game he loved. "This is the toughest decision in my life, but I'm thankful of realizing a childhood dream and that I got to do it in Chicago with all these great fans."
Shaw proudly wore that the Blackhawks selected him as the 139th overall choice at the 2011 National Hockey League Draft. That was during the fifth round, or about the time the sport's cognoscenti are seen yawning and checking on their flights back home.
Patrick Kane took a liking to the personable kid, but not before doing some quick math. Turns out Shaw had been completely ignored in the 2009 and 2010 drafts. So Kane multiplied two years by the prescribed seven rounds by 30 franchises and revised the situation.
"Actually," he informed Shaw, "you were the 559th overall choice in the 19th round."
Kane wasn't trying to put Shaw in his place, but the rookie found it on his own. Often, he set up a branch office beside tall enemy trees near their blue paint. That's where Shaw recorded one of his signature goals. In Game 1 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, at just about the stroke of midnight, Shaw tumbled along the corner boards of the Boston Bruins' end. When Michal Roszival gathered the puck inside the blue line, Shaw hustled directly toward traffic. Roszival's drive nicked Dave Bolland, then deflected again off Shaw's left leg past Tuukka Rask to provide the Blackhawks a classic marathon 4-3 conquest in triple overtime.
"I love shinpads," chirped Shaw to a national television audience. Presciently, NBC had wired him for sound, aware that the chatty No. 65 would not produce dead air. The Blackhawks, who outshot the Bruins, 63-54, triumphed because luck is the residue of design. Shaw was hanging out where angels fear to tread, and the fortuitous carom counted, unlike the 2015 conference finals when Shaw, consulting his inner Ronaldo, head-butted a puck into the net against the Anaheim Ducks.
Not surprisingly, Shaw's 2013 winner occurred about two hours after he closed regulation by partaking in an imbroglio with Boston's similarly productive pest, Brad Marchand. That was Shaw's DNA. The military has its adjutant general; he was the Blackhawks' agitant general. He looked tiny out there, but he played large. All those birddogs who scoured the continent for talent passed over Shaw because they couldn't quite measure what ticked on the left side of his chest. As Shaw professed, "I'm a trench guy. Blue collar. I punch in at work, I punch out."
He was also one of many glue guys on a diverse, tightly-knit group of Blackhawks. During bus rides to crucial road playoff matches, silence prevailed, except from his row. Teammates loved his energy, and his willingness to sacrifice. They tagged him with the perfect nickname, "The Mutt." Always loyal and willing, he was the little engine that could and would do anything for the team, for a W.
Nobody was off-limits to his banter or pranks, not even Jonathan Toews. When he went out for dinner one evening, Shaw invaded the captain's quarters, emptied the minibar, then crunched all the chips, peanuts and chocolate snacks into a lovely mess on Toews' bed sheets. On the way out, Shaw boosted the room temperature to 90 degrees.
Then there was Brandon Saad, Shaw's road roommate for a spell. He pounced on the debonair "Man Child" for wearing a robe like an old fogey and hogging too much time to fix his hair in the bathroom. Although, just recently, current Blackhawks have issued incriminating visual evidence of a shirtless Shaw flexing before a mirror.
Regrettably, there will be fewer anecdotal updates about The Mutt, because he has tapped the mute button and listened to his body. Shaw and his bride, Chaunette, have two young children, Andy and Dax, who someday will learn all the fun stories about Dad.
Shaw kept teammates in stitches, then auctioned off his many sutures for charity. But after all the wounds and scars, he's moving on. He played just 14 games this season. After Shaw's last shift on Feb. 9, Head Coach Jeremy Colliton, whose NHL tour ceased because of concussions, appeared shattered. He sensed what Shaw now knows. An athlete's spirit might be forever, but eventually, those shinpads gotta go.
"Sitting in a locker room with the guys… the brotherhood," replied Shaw, when asked what he will miss most. As for aspiring players of modest frames, Shaw's message is, "if you hear all the things I heard growing up… not enough size, not enough speed, not enough skill… don't give up. Be yourself. Don't be afraid to be different and have fun."
During Shaw's first term with the Blackhawks, Head Coach Joel Quenneville called him "irreplaceable." But because of the salary cap, Shaw was dealt to the Montreal Canadiens after the 2016 season. Three years later, the Blackhawks got him back, gladly exchanging draft picks for a pedigreed competitor with two championship rings. This strange season, all those rookie Blackhawks caught only a glimpse of Shaw's brand, a work ethic to be emulated. He noted a possible clone, Brandon Hagel.
There's this picture of Shaw holding the Stanley Cup after Game 6 of the final in Boston. He's still bleeding because earlier he went down in a pool upon being struck by a puck. He returned to the ice because, until Monday, he never quit.
Moral to that snapshot: the next Blackhawk to don No. 65 better be ready to play hard. Really hard.