CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Ryan Garbutt used to have a different feeling when he came to United Center with the Dallas Stars than he had going to any other arena in the NHL.
"This is one of the teams [the Blackhawks] that I've always envisioned myself wanting to play for, and maybe that's one of the reasons I always wanted to play hard when I came here," Garbutt told NHL.com. "Even in our morning skates here I'd be thinking, 'Maybe the Chicago GM is watching, I better play hard.'"
Whether Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman noticed Garbutt at a morning skate is irrelevant now. Something about Garbutt clearly piqued Bowman's interest because he acquired him and defenseman Trevor Daley from the Stars on July 10 in a trade for forward Patrick Sharp and defenseman Stephen Johns.
Left Wing - CHI
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 3 | +/-: -1
The 3-2 loss in his Blackhawks' debut Wednesday notwithstanding, Garbutt's Chicago experience has so far exceeded his expectations. He can't get enough of playing inside United Center, the national anthem, the crowd, the noise.
"Even playing that intrasquad game and having a crowd like that was crazy," Garbutt said, referencing the scrimmage at United Center on Sept. 21. "Every game in this building is special."
Garbutt, who as of now is filling a fourth-line role for the Blackhawks with Marcus Kruger and Andrew Desjardins, said he has tried to be a sponge in his first few weeks as a Blackhawks player, soaking up knowledge from veteran players who have won the Stanley Cup multiple times, including three for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook and Bryan Bickell.
What he's found out has surprised him.
"It's cool to see how humble the guys here are," Garbutt said. "They just work hard on the ice and look after themselves away from the rink. That is definitely refreshing to see something like that. These guys aren't dwelling on their past. They want to win again. They want to keep winning. That's what makes them so great, that desire to be better. It's something pretty fun to be a part of so far."
But it is also daunting to be a Blackhawks' player, Garbutt said, because now every other player and team in the League is jealous of you and is hunting you. Garbutt has never been in that position before.
"I know when I would come play in Chicago, that's a game you always get up for," Garbutt said. "Now I'm going to have to be dealing with visiting teams doing that to us."
He said it should make him a better player. He thinks being hunted is why the Blackhawks' core players keep winning.
"They have to come to play every single night," Garbutt said. "They do that 82 games in the regular season and when the playoffs come it's no different for them."
Maybe one day it will be no different for him too.
"I loved Dallas," Garbutt said, "but once you get the taste for playing for this team, you definitely don't want to give that up."