Former IceHogs help Blackhawks end 49-year Stanley Cup drought
From staff reports
Ten former Rockford IceHogs players helped guide the Chicago Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup since 1961, ending the NHL’s longest championship drought.
Former ’Hogs Bryan Bickell, Dave Bolland, Nick Boynton, Troy Brouwer, Dustin Byfuglien, Jordan Hendry, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Colin Fraser, Antti Niemi and Kris Versteeg appeared in the Stanley Cup Playoffs while former ’Hogs Corey Crawford, Jake Dowell and Jack Skille played with the Blackhawks during the 2009-10 season.
The Blackhawks hoisted the elusive Stanley Cup trophy June 9 following a 4-3 sudden-death overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. The Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane slipped the winning goal past Flyers goalie Michael Leighton 4 minutes and 6 seconds into overtime to seal the series 4-2.
“I knew right away,” Kane said. “It was stuck between the meshing there. I can’t believe this just happened. To score the winning goal in the Stanley Cup finals. It was just…it was just unbelievable.”
Niemi was the goalie of record for every postseason game for Chicago, and earned his 16th win of the playoffs—a team record—after stopping 21 Flyers shots June 9.
“He’s the real deal,” Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville said of Niemi. “Great save on [the Flyers’ Jeff] Carter in the dying minutes of the third period. He played so many big games for us. What a big Game 2 in Chicago for us.”
The Blackhawks started the Stanley Cup Finals on their home ice, winning Game 1, 6-5, May 29 and Game 2, 2-1, May 31. Chicago then dropped the next two in Philadelphia—4-3, June 2 and 5-3, June 4. The Blackhawks returned to their home ice June 6 to take a 3-2 series lead following a 7-4 victory over Philadelphia. The Blackhawks then closed out the series with the 4-3 overtime win in Philadelphia June 9.
Former IceHogs contributed in three of the four Blackhawks goals in the June 9 deciding Game 6 victory. Byfuglien tallied his 11th goal of the postseason in the first period, Bolland set up Patrick Sharp for Chicago’s second goal in the second period, and Andrew Ladd redirected a point shot by Hjalmarsson past Leighton to send the Blackhawks into the third ahead, 3-2.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews claimed the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
“Oh my God,” Toews said. “It’s like that commercial. I’m speechless. We knew from Day One of this season that we had the potential to do it. And to realize our goal, it’s an amazing feeling.”
Former IceHogs Head Coach Mike Haviland will get his name engraved on the Stanley Cup after serving as the Blackhawks’ assistant coach. Meantime, former IceHogs Equipment Manager Jim Heintzleman also served as Chicago’s assistant manager.
Rockford’s first American Hockey League General Manager, Al MacIsaac, serves as Chicago’s senior director of Hockey Administration and assistant to the president, and current IceHogs Team President Mark Bernard is also a member of the Hockey Operations Department, serving as the Blackhawks’ general manager of Minor League Affiliations.
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