by Scott King
They leave their blood, sweat and tears on the ice or in old Indian Head sweaters once they hang their skates up, thinking they’ll never sport the jersey and the gear on the team’s ice again. But for cherished Blackhawks alumni, the organization’s marketing machine decided that won’t be the case.
The Hawks’ “One More Shift” campaign started with Denis Savard on Nov. 13, 2016 when Chicago took on another team of Savard’s, the Montreal Canadiens. The Hall of Famer skated out onto the United Center ice in front of a roaring sold-out crowd to join the current Blackhawks for the national anthem.
“It’s touching,” Savard said of his recognition and the birth of the “One More Shift” initiative. “I have to be honest with you, I was nervous. Not sure what to expect, I know people applaud and really send their gratitudes, but at the same time for me I wanted to make sure I don’t disturb the game that’s going to go on here in the next two, three minutes.”
“Part of it is original six teams playing together, and I was very fortunate to play for both teams,” Savard said. “It was a pretty special night. To be on the ice brings a lot of great memories. The first thing that came to mind for me was the anthems. Especially the one here, because when we played here it was loud and I don’t think that’s changed.”
WGN Radio Blackhawks color analyst and former Hawk Troy Murray was the latest alumni to get the special treatment before the team’s 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday, February 21. Past honorees include Bryan Bickell, Eric Daze, Steve Larmer, Ed Belfour, Jeremy Roenick and Al Secord.
“It was fun,” Murray said on WGN Radio’s “Blackhawks Crazy” podcast Friday. “I didn’t really know what to expect right off the bat when they asked me, and I was very honored to obviously be able to do that. When it kind of really started to kick in was when I was standing down by the zamboni entrance, they were showing the video montage, then all of a sudden, you’re going like ‘man, I’m heading back out here on the ice. This is going to be pretty cool.’
“It was really special for me just to get out there and skate around. You just forget as an athlete how much you appreciate and how overwhelming it can be when you get out there on the ice when there’s twenty thousand fans in the stands. It was really cool. I really enjoyed it.”
“It was great,” Patrick Kane said of the latest honorable alumni salute. “I mean Troy is someone that is definitely beloved in this locker room. Just watching his highlights there it seemed like he was a fun player to watch.
“Obviously we didn’t get the fortunate chance to watch him [in person], but I mean [he] won the Selke trophy, looked good up there with his hairdo at the awards. Looked like he had a little mullet going there. That was nice to see him skate out before the game. I always feel that when we have those situations, it seems like we always come out and play pretty well right away. I thought that was the case again tonight.”
The truth is, Kane might be right about the organization’s pregame salutes to former Hawks. Since the team started the campaign in November of 2016, their record in games where an alumni took a spin and stood on the ice for the anthem is 5-2-1.
When you witness the booming reception the alumni receive, it’s hard to deny that there could be a correlation with the home team feeding off that irrefutable positive energy.
In a season where there’s been more cons than pros, maybe this is something the team can continue to capitalize on in the future.
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