CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 15: Michal Rozsival #32 of the Chicago Blackhawks attempts to control the puck against Daniel Paille #20 of the Boston Bruins in Game Two of the NHL 2013 Stanley Cup Final at United Center on June 15, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
It was the 853rd game of Hawks defenseman Michal Rozsival’s NHL career, and he was actually nervous. Well, no, that’s not really the right word. Anxious? That’s a little closer. It’s hard to describe the feeling, frankly, when you spend a lifetime waiting for a chance to play in the Stanley Cup Final, then you actually hop over the boards for the first time in Game 1.
“I think I was just thinking too much about the situation at the beginning,” Rozsival said. ‘‘I don’t know if it’s nervous or anxious, or just excited and hyped up. I don’t know what it is. So many different emotions running through your body.”
Rozsival entered the league in 1999 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He never made it out of the second round of the playoffs until last season, when he played major minutes on a Phoenix Coyotes team that eliminated the Hawks in the first round and went on to lose in five games to the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference final.
He chose to sign with the Hawks over the summer, hoping to make a run at the Stanley Cup in the twilight of his career. And now, in his 12th season after splitting time in the regular season, he entered Game 2 on Saturday night as an every-day player just three wins from a championship, having fired the shot that Andrew Shaw tipped in for the Game 1 win in triple overtime. (Overtime heroics are nothing new for Rozsival, who scored in double overtime for the New York Rangers to beat the Buffalo Sabres in 2007.)
It’s fair to assume he and Michal Handzus — a 14-year veteran in his first Stanley Cup Final — have a greater appreciation for the moment than many in the Hawks’ core. After all, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane won it all in their third season.
“When you talk to guys like that, and you see how badly they want it, you really understand how special winning a Stanley Cup is,” Toews said. “Those are guys who’ve had great careers and been on really good teams, and they’ve come very close before. You need a lot of things to go right.”
Everything finally went right this year for Rozsival. But he doesn’t think the moment is lost on his younger, more spoiled teammates.
“I don’t know, I think they all appreciate it,” Rozsival said. “They all realize how tough it is to get into the Final. For some of us, it’s once in a lifetime. Other players are more fortunate. But I don’t think anybody takes it for granted. You can tell in the locker room that everybody wants it bad.”