Emotional night in my city Chicago tonight as many familiar faces returned to the United Center.
Flashback: October 18th, 2018. Corey Crawford returns to the Blackhawks net for the first time in 10 months as the Hawks face off against the Coyotes. This was the first time Niklas Hjalmarsson would play against his old team of 10 years. I was up in the 300s that night with my brother Jake. On a night full of impactful memories, two of them stand out to me now. One, that was the first time and last time I had a mai tai, much to regret there. And two, I remember that Hjalmarsson video tribute vividly. Years of excellence, leadership, creativity, and power that he gave that Hawks team. All the love and memories replaying in front of cheering fans. And then they panned the camera over to Hjalmarsson, donning the Yote’s road whites, and he was tearing up on the bench, waiving to the packed, screaming United Center.
And right then I knew that a day like today was going to be hard. After Shawzy’s Legacy Night, I didn’t think I could tear up more. But I briefly forgot how much I love and appreciate Niklas Hjalmarsson.
623 games with the Blackhawks, 143 points (23G 120A). In his time as a Blackhawk, Hjalmarsson blocked 1,186 shots. He was then traded to the Coyotes before the 2017-2018 season. He played 4 seasons with the Yotes, 198 games with 29 points (2G 27A), and 419 blocked shots. He retired last year with a total of 821 regular-season NHL games, 1,605 blocked shots, 172 points (25G 147A).
That’s not including his 137 playoff games with 29 points (2G 27A), 3316 blocked shots, and 3 Stanley Cups. Incredible guy, an incredible player, happy he had his own Legacy Night. He was not the only familiar face back at the UC. As you can see, the ceremonial puck drop was crowded with hooligans. Duncan Keith, another Chicago defensive legend, made his return to the UC for the first time as an Oiler and Jonathan Toews was back in the lineup for the first time since late January.
I miss Duncan Keith once a day. I have a floss holder that is his head so every morning I have a little “aww man, I miss that man” moment. He was a guy this city loved and he loved us all right back. He was a strange bird who never really gave a shit who knew it. Of course, Duncs had a massive standing ovation for his tribute video:
Plus seeing Toews back after missing more time with concussion worries was relieving to see. And the best part of the night? The Hawks followed all of that with a 3-4 OT win. Brinksy was the one to do it. I was hoping it would be Toews or Kane but regardless, who doesn’t love an Alex DeBrincat goal.
The Hawks move on to play the Flyers on Saturday. The Flyers started off well tonight but eventually lost (again) to the Wild. The Hawks are now 20-27-8 on the season. I’d like to see them get that 21’s win on Saturday before they have to spin around and face the Lightning on Sunday night. Tonight was a nostalgic night to be a Chicagoan.
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Featured Image: Chicago Blackhawks Twitter