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Bickell: Mario Kart helps us refocus

by Bryan Bickell

Chicago Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell has become a prominent figure during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, taking on a key offensive role for a team seeking to win its second championship in four seasons.

Bickell, 27, scored eight goals over the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- one fewer than he had in 48 regular season games. In the Western Conference Final, Bickell scored goals in three consecutive games, then added a pair of assists in the clinching Game 5 win against the Los Angeles Kings.

Bickell has been shut out through three games in the Stanley Cup Final.

He has been gracious enough to agree to keep a player blog that will appear on throughout the series against the Boston Bruins.

In his fifth entry, Bickell writes about the Blackhawks tradition of playing Mario Kart on the road. He goes over the history and even ranks some of the players:

BOSTON -- I'm sure a lot of you have heard about how some of us on the team like to unwind when we're on the road by playing Mario Kart. I figured we'd lighten the mood today -- an off day between Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final -- and I'd let you in on how it all started, what it's like for us and why we do it.

The Mario Kart experienced started in 2010, the year we won the Stanley Cup. I played in only four games during that playoff run, so I had a lot of time on my hands and I spent it playing some serious Mario Kart. The boys started calling me "the commissioner" because I was bored and everyone was doing their thing.

It has carried over and now, four years later, we're still bringing two Wii systems and two Mario Kart games on the road. The team sets up a lounge for us in the hotel and there are about a dozen of us who are regulars.

Sure, when you're on the road you can go for a walk around the city to loosen up your legs and see some sights, but for the most part, the guys like Mario Kart because it's fun, competitive and it passes the time.

The trainers bring the Wii systems on the road for us and they hook it all up for us in the lounge. It's been the same systems since 2010.

I like to think that I'm one of best Mario Kart players on the team, but let me go through some of my rankings with you:

I'd say there are three No. 1s with myself, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook. Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews are probably tied for No. 2, but it falls off pretty badly from there.

Patrick Kane and Andrew Shaw play and aren't terrible, but we have guys like Nick Leddy, Brandon Bollig, Viktor Stalberg, Michal Rozsival and Ryan Stanton all struggling. Stanton is a new victim in the Mario Kart world.

Let me tell you, it gets pretty darn intense. There are a lot of dramatic plays at the end, in the last lap of games, and guys get fired up. Troy Brouwer broke a few remotes when he was here. He got livid. Tazer gets fired up at times and stomps his feet, but it's all in good fun.

I don't want to call it a kid's game, because we love playing it. And we played it after the game Monday night because some of us needed a way to put our gears in neutral. We were in overdrive and emotional, but getting into some Mario Kart action allowed us to wind down, neutralize ourselves and essentially move on from the tough 2-0 loss.

This is an important time for us and this next game is probably the biggest game of my life, but you overthink the game, that's where you can make the mistakes. So, having the ability to fall back on some Mario Kart action is a way to keep us relaxed and take us away from the game for a little while.

It helps us get refocused on the task at hand. We know all about that going into Game 4. We'll be ready.

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