Notebook: Blackhawks fans, NHL fans happy to have their teams back
BY MARK LAZERUS email@example.com January 13, 2013 9:44PM
Corey Crawford #50 tends the goal. The Chicago Blackhawks open training camp with an on-ice session at Johnny's IceHouse West on Sunday, January 13, 2013. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
Updated: January 14, 2013 1:01AM
Brandon Bollig opened the gate, stepped on the ice and was greeted by the kind of high-pitched squeals usually reserved for the likes of Justin Bieber. So much for fan backlash.
Angry? No, Blackhawks fans weren’t angry. At least, not the hundreds that packed Johnny’s IceHouse West on Sunday for the first training-camp practice after the end of the NHL lockout. The scene was similar all around the league, from hockey hotbeds such as Philadelphia (where more than 2,000 fans showed up) to struggling markets such as Columbus (where it was standing-room only 20 minutes before practice started).
“I’m not surprised,” winger Daniel Carcillo said. “We have some of the most passionate fans, not only in this city especially, but around the league. It’s great to see that they’re still behind us and ready to watch some hockey.”
There might still be some bad blood between the players and owners. Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said last week there was some resentment from the players’ side. He said Sunday that he wouldn’t take back that comment, but that it was more about “frustration” on both sides.
“None of that’s ever personal,” Toews said. “All that’s behind us now and I’d rather talk a little more about hockey and the great things that are going to come from this season instead of what happened. We’ve put that behind us. We show our appreciation to the fans, we want to win hockey games for them early on this season and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
On the ice, it was like old times for the Hawks. Coach Joel Quenneville said he “loved the pace” and was pleased with his players’ conditioning, particularly those who played in Europe or Rockford during the lockout. Toews said “the guys were flying.”
Heck, Toews was just happy not to be leading practice anymore.
“Not being the coach for once, that was nice,” he said. “Don’t have to worry about guys goofing around. For example, No. 88 [Patrick Kane].”
His teammates were happy about that, too.
“It was awesome,” winger Patrick Sharp said. “I don’t want Joel to hear this, but it was nice to have a meeting this morning, actually, with the coach. Haven’t had one of those in a while.”
Carcillo hasn’t played since Jan. 2 of last season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament on a hit that earned him a seven-game suspension, so he was particularly raring to go. His excitement level jumped even higher when he learned he’d be skating as the top-line right wing with Marian Hossa and Toews.
“He felt like he won the lottery being with those guys today,” Quenneville said.
Carcillo spent time on a line with Kane and Hossa last season, so he knows the drill. Play his game — be tough, be gritty, clog the crease — and don’t try to play his linemates’ game.
“I have to play the same way and not try and play the way a Marian Hossa or a Patrick Kane plays,” he said. “I keep it simple. I go to the net and get on the forecheck and get those guys the puck.”
Defenseman Steve Montador was not on the ice. General manager Stan Bowman said Montador, who spent the offseason recovering from a concussion, did not pass his physical. Also missing were forwards Brandon Saad and Brandon Pirri and defenseman Ryan Stanton, who have been playing with Rockford and are expected to be at Johnny’s on Monday.