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Turco aiming to add to Blackhawks' success

by Brian Hedger / Chicago Blackhawks
Marty Turco puts on the Blackhawks' sweater for the first time Tuesday.

CHICAGO – Sitting behind a microphone and next to his new boss, Marty Turco smiled while watching his own highlights play on a nearby television screen.

The setting was the Stadium Club inside Chicago's United Center Tuesday, where Turco was officially introduced as the Chicago Blackhawks' new No.1 goaltender.

Turco took questions about everything from his decision to sign with the Hawks, to his own desire win a Cup, to his noteworthy puck-handling skills. Turco talked about how happy and excited he was, but speaking for him more than words was the smile he wore along with a gray tie and pinstriped navy blazer.

"The opportunity to come to Chicago and play for a winner was the most important thing," Turco said, while seated next to Hawks General Manager Stan Bowman. "These kids looked like they had some fun last year and I want to be a part of it. I look forward to the opportunity to stand in my crease in the 'Madhouse on Madison' and get the chance to make some saves and get the people up on their feet, hopefully like on those highlights."

If he does, it will go a long way toward easing the pain of losing of Antti Niemi, who started every postseason game in the Hawks' Cup run and became a fan favorite. Turco may be more accomplished as a 10-year veteran, but he doesn't have a Cup on his resume yet, meaning the pressure will be immense right away for him to succeed.

Turco welcomes the challenge.

"There's no pressure greater for me than what I put on myself, knowing what I can do in the net," he said. "Pressure is what you make of it. It can always be enjoyable, and winning usually takes care of that. I feel it and I enjoy it. To have that target on your back after what they accomplished last (season) is a great feeling, but it's also a stressful one."

Tuesday's introduction might have eased that stress a bit. Turco, who turned 35 on Aug. 13, happily posed for photos with his new No. 30 home Hawks jersey -- a change from his customary No. 35. Turco smiled even wider when the reason for his number change, legendary Hawks goalie Tony Esposito, mugged for the cameras standing next to him.

Esposito is from the same hometown as Turco -- Sault St. Marie, Ontario -- and his No. 35 – now retired to the United Center's rafters – is the reason Turco wore that number his entire career before now.

"The chance to play for an Original Six team here in Chicago, to be a Blackhawk and to wear the same jersey that Tony wore is something that's irreplaceable," Turco said. "It's an opportunity that I take very dearly."

Bowman is just as pleased with adding Turco, both from an on-ice and business perspective. He said Turco was his "Plan A" if things with Niemi didn't work out. But that meant Turco having to wait out a lengthy contract negotiation for Niemi that didn't get resolved until an arbitration ruling in late July.

"I said (to Marty), ‘If you've got to do something else, that's your prerogative,'" Bowman said.  "I didn't mislead him and say we've got anything in the pocket here. They were interested. From what he said, this is where he wanted to be. He obviously had hoped that it would work out."

Now that it has, thoughts among Hawks fans are now turning toward how good Turco, who topped all NHL goalies with four assists last season, can be with a skilled, puck-moving defense crew.

"It's definitely going to be different in the way he handles the puck," Hawks coach Joel Quennville said. "Hopefully we have the puck more and we're in the other team's end. He's going to make life a little bit more enjoyable on our defense as far as going back to get some dangerous pucks. All of a sudden it's a clean pass in the neutral zone and we're attacking on the offense."

Quenneville is relieved to have the goaltending situation figured out before training camp. A year ago, there was a battle for the backup job between Niemi and prospect Corey Crawford. Now, with Niemi seeking a home elsewhere as a free agent, Crawford will back up Turco, who told Quenneville Tuesday he hopes to start around 60 games. Turco went 22-20-11 in 53 games with Dallas last season, posting a .913 save percentage and 2.72 goals-against average with four shutouts.

"I'd like to say 55 to 60 (games) is probably a good number to start with, and everything opens up after that," Quenneville said. "This year, Marty is going to be the guy and it's nice knowing he's going to play. We want him to play well, and I think there's a lot to look forward to the stability he can present his teammates and the team. Having that nailed right from the outset will be healthy for us."

Esposito agreed. The Hall of Famer also said Turco's age shouldn't be a concern.

"I like Turco's track record," Esposito said. "He stops the puck. You've got to stop the puck and get in front of it any way you can, and that's what he seems to do. I like the fact he's been in the league awhile, and right now he's at the right age. He's in his prime the next three, four or five years. Hopefully he can help this team win again."


Author: Brian Hedger | Correspondent

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