The voice of experience
BY RICK MORRISSEYSun-Times Columnist
"I want it pretty bad," goaltender Marty Turco said of winning a Stanley Cup.
The Stanley Cup has treated Marty Turco as if he were a corrosive material to be avoided. He continues to pursue it anyway.
He's in Chicago now, though not just because the Blackhawks call the trophy their own. He chose the Hawks over other teams because, at 35, he knows what he knows.
He knows that the leadership of a 22-year-old kid has made all the difference in the world for the Hawks.
He also knows how bizarre that might sound. Shouldn't the roles be reversed- Shouldn't the guy who is 13 years older be the one providing the guiding hand-
Even before the 2009-10 regular season had ended, Turco was pondering his exit from Dallas' net. As he looked around the league, he paid close attention to team captains. They're important in hockey, more so than in most other sports. They stand for something. Effort. Character. Even nobleness, in some cases.
Turco kept coming back to the one in Chicago, the one Hawks teammates call ''Captain Serious'' for being waaaaaaaaaay too focused for his age.
He kept coming back to Jonathan Toews.
''Looking around the league, there are a lot of great captains and amazing players,'' Turco said. ''But there are only so many complete players in this league that do it all. It's weird to be talking about the kid like that because he is so young, but I've been around long enough to know you can't win without that type of leadership -- someone who is the pillar of a group that wants to support him.
''He ends up being the rock, and you can tell with the way this team plays and the way he acts on the ice and off ... well, it's not hard to notice it. To want to be around this group, part of it stems from the kind of person he is.''
OK, so besides being an Olympic gold medalist for Canada, a Stanley Cup champion and the playoffs' most valuable player, Toews is now an unwitting Hawks' recruiter. For his next trick, let's see if he can turn a former Dallas Star into a Cup-winning goalie.
High hopes, key questions
It's going to be hard but not impossible. Turco is taking the place of Antti Niemi, who signed with San Jose after the Hawks rejected his arbitration deal in the offseason. Niemi was good, not great, and if Turco doesn't suddenly become 35-going-on-50, he at least should be able to fill Niemi's skates. At a minimum, his passing ability will add a new dimension to the team's attack.
The Hawks open their season tonight at Colorado and return home to face Detroit on Saturday, when they'll raise their championship banner to the rafters at the United Center. Turco might have nine NHL seasons under his belt, but he expects to deal with squadrons of butterflies both nights.
There are heavy expectations in town for Turco, but there also are big questions, the biggest being whether he can stand tall in the playoffs the way Niemi did at times last season. He hasn't always done that.
''There are two playoffs against Colorado where I didn't play well at all,'' he said. ''I just wasn't feeling good, and we were out in five games. But other than that, the rest of my playoff time, I felt pretty good. Things didn't go that way. I'm just eager to get back in the playoffs and have a chance at it.''
He doesn't want the season to turn into a let's-win-it-for-the-old-guy crusade.
''If they need any extra motivation, sure, I'll put my poster on the wall for them,'' he said, laughing. ''But I don't want that. Part of what makes this group tick is that they want two [Cups]. They know how fun it is to win. They also know how hard it is.''
Turco knows his career is winding down. He's able to look at the situation with an out-of-body detachment and see that he's at war over the Cup.
''It's like a Catch-22,'' he said. ''It's not going to define my life, but it's something I want. I want it pretty bad. I'm almost willing to do anything in order to get it done.
''Just the sacrifice of signing a one-year deal to come here might be an indication of that. I just play to win. I wake up thinking about what I can do that day to win. To a fault. It controls my life, but I don't think it's a bad thing.
''If I pour everything I have into it for the rest of my career, I'm pretty sure I won't have any regrets.''
Age has some advantages, too
As for Toews, Turco can't stop saying good things about him.
''Hockey's got a lot of special people,'' he said. ''And every once in a while, a few rise above it all. He's got a long and great career ahead of him, but hopefully I can catch a glimpse of it here.''
On Wednesday, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville praised Turco's leadership abilities. Apparently, that quality isn't reserved for the ridiculously young.