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Blackhawks out to bond on Global Series trip to Berlin, Prague

Will open season against Flyers during first visit to Europe since 2009

by Tracy Myers @Tramyers_NHL / Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Jonathan Toews knows not to take any opponent lightly, especially one he's not familiar with.

The Chicago Blackhawks center and his teammates are preparing to head to Berlin for the first leg of their 2019 NHL Global Series trip, and he said he has hasn't forgotten what happened 10 years ago, when Chicago lost a preseason game to ZSC of the Swiss National League, and a goalie named Ari Sulander, 2-1 in Zurich.  

"They had this Zoolander -- I thought his name was Derek Zoolander -- the goaltender," Toews said, referring to Ben Stiller's character in the 2001 film "Zoolander." "The name was Sulander. The guy had this Dominik Hasek helmet and we couldn't score.


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"Then the place went nuts and we lost. They're hoisting this big Cup, and I saw it in the newspaper the next day. It's all in German and their captain's hoisting this [Victoria] Cup, the crowd's going nuts, and we're like, 'That just happened, I guess.' We didn't know what we were getting ourselves into. That's the only memory I've got, so I'm going to be ready for this game against (Eisbaren) Berlin, I'll tell you that."

Toews, forward Patrick Kane, defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, and goaltender Corey Crawford are the remaining Blackhawks players from that trip 10 years ago, the last time Chicago played in Europe. 

This time they will face Eisbaren Berlin in the 2019 NHL Global Series Challenge at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin on Sunday (1:30 p.m. ET; NHL, NBCSCH+, NHL.TV), then open their regular season against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Global Series at O2 Arena in Prague on Oct. 4 (2 p.m. ET; NBCSP, NBCSCH, NHL.TV).  

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The Blackhawks began that 2009-10 season, which ended in their first Stanley Cup championship since 1961, by losing 4-3 in a shootout to the Florida Panthers in Helsinki on Oct. 2, but defeated the Panthers 4-0 the next day. Players said the results were not as important as the team bonding that took place far away from Chicago. 

"Once we got to Finland and kind of got the group together and played Florida, we had a lot of fun," said forward Kris Versteeg, who played for the Blackhawks from 2007-10 and 2013-15 and is with Rockford, their American Hockey League affiliate. "Those trips are great. You always see those teams that generally go on those trips, they mesh pretty well. It forces them into that situation early on, forces them to be together."

The Blackhawks are hoping to achieve that during this trip.

"Long plane ride, chatting away, playing some cards, having fun, bonding," said forward Andrew Shaw, who played for the Blackhawks from 2012-2016 and rejoined them in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens on June 30. "You have a couple of new guys; I'm not saying there are cliques, but you get comfortable for certain people. A trip like this can make everyone feel together."

The Blackhawks brought in several new players this offseason, including defenseman Olli Maatta, who was acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins on June 15; defenseman Calvin de Haan, who was acquired in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes on June 25; and goalie Robin Lehner, who agreed to a one-year, $5 million contract as a free agent July 1. 

"It's going to be different, but it's fine," Lehner said. "We're going to enjoy it, we're going to Berlin and Prague and get better, try to bond as a team, and come back and try to win games. It's a lot of time difference and stuff like that, so it's not an advantage, but it's going to be fun. It's going to be a good opportunity for me to get to know the guys better."

Kane said, "There would be a lot of time to hang out with the guys and sightsee and enjoy the time over there. Sometimes it's good to switch it up. It'll be fun to play a different team and play some different hockey and enjoy the time over there, too. I'm looking forward to it."

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