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Quenneville receives extension from Hawks

by Brian Hedger
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks underwent a lot of changes this summer after winning the organization's first Stanley Cup in 49 years, but one person's job security never was in doubt.

That would be coach Joel Quenneville, who was given a three-year contract extension Thursday that was all but a foregone conclusion for the person known around Chicago simply as "Coach Q."

In the same city that another mustachioed champion, Mike Ditka, became simply "Da Coach," Quenneville is gaining similar notoriety. Fans love his fiery demeanor during games and dry humor when not staring straight into a television camera. And there’s also that whole Stanley Cup thing -- not to mention a 97-44-19 record in two seasons as Blackhawks coach. In 13 seasons as an NHL coach, Quenneville -- who turned 52 Wednesday -- is 535-327-60 with 77 ties in 999 games.

Add it all up, and Blackhawks Vice President and General Manager Stan Bowman didn't have to think long before making the deal. At a Thursday press conference in United Center's Stadium Club, Bowman compared the extension to the deals he completed last season with franchise cornerstones Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane before their previous deals expired.

"I kind of put this in that same category, which is having that leadership at the top," Bowman said. "You want to have the right person in charge of the group. Once we made that decision and talked about it internally, there was no reason to put it off. It was natural to get at it this summer and get it off the list."

After expressing thanks to Hawks owner Rocky Wirtz, Bowman and others, Quenneville didn't take long to revert back to his narrowly-focused coaching persona.

"As a coach I never like to refer to my situation publicly, but at the same time we're very happy about being here and being part of something special," he said. "I'd rather talk about hockey and the team. I can't wait to get started."

That will happen Saturday morning at a sold-out United Center during the team's annual Training Camp Festival. Quenneville will address the team for the first time Thursday night and then go over results of team physicals Friday after meeting with reporters for training camp media day.

Rather than clearing his head from the so-called "Stanley Cup Hangover," Quenneville wants to get the skates laced up and drop the puck as soon as possible. After an offseason full of change in Chicago, he comes back to a roster full of young, talented players.

"That's the exciting part for me right now, is looking at our team," Quenneville said. "We've got some new faces and (we're) trying to put it all together. We're going to find out how good we're really going to be."

He hopes the players are just as excited to return.

"There's probably some nice places to play in the League, but nothing compares to Chicago," Quenneville said. "We should all feel fortunate about being here, whether it's as players or coaches -- and we welcome the challenge (of repeating)."

It will be a different challenge than what Quenneville faced last season -- when the roster was dotted with experienced, talented players. This season's team may be just as talented, but some of that experience is gone.

Bowman, though, is confident that if anyone can make it work, it's Quenneville.

"When you've got a lot of star players on a team, it can be difficult," Bowman said. "There's only one puck to go around. There's only so much ice time to divvy up. You've got to get your players to buy into their roles, because everybody has a role on the team. Overriding everything else, that's what Joel has done a great job at. It's not an easy League to coach in, so in order to be successful you need to be a talented coach -- and Joel certainly is that."

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