Bryan Bickell’s motivation these last few seasons didn’t come from any writing on the wall. It came from the lack of writing on the 2010 Stanley Cup. His name wasn’t among the other Chicago Blackhawks players etched on that gleaming prize, and that fueled him.
“From being a part of that 2010 team and having everything but that one thing, that stuck in my head for a while,” said Bickell when he sat down with CSNChicago on Saturday. “It just pushed me even more to get my name on it.”
That push was evident, especially in the postseason. Bickell wasn’t just some role player for the Blackhawks anymore; he was a major contributor whose point total earned him top-line time down the stretch. And now Bickell is enjoying a dream summer that includes another Stanley Cup, his wedding next weekend, another day with the Cup (which will get the 2013 names etched on it some time in September) and a new four-year contract with the Blackhawks.
To say it’s been a hectic offseason would be an understatement.
“It’s been exciting, to do what we did here and in a week’s time I’m going to get married,” he said. “This summer’s going to be one to remember, from the Cup to a wedding to a new contract. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
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You could say Bickell entered this season on the bubble. He was in the final year of a contract that paid him $600,000 and he was coming off a tough 2011-12 season, especially individually. Bickell struggled with his game and was a healthy scratch several times. So entering this contract year he wanted to be ready, and he was. The problem was the NHL wasn’t. So when the lockout began in mid-September, Bickell headed to Europe about two weeks later. The overseas work kept him in shape and with the bigger ice surface, improved his skating. And when the season finally started over here, Bickell was ready and stayed ready.
“The last few years my game’s been getting better. The biggest thing for me was the consistency level,” he said. “This year, for the season I had, I took steps in the right way and just skyrocketed in the playoffs. I had a lot of confidence. (Coach Joel Quenneville) put it in my head what I needed to do every night to help my game and help the team win, and I just ran with it.”
Indeed he did, and by the end of the Blackhawks’ Cup run speculation ran wild about how much interest and money Bickell could command in the offseason. But from the start Bickell made it clear that he wanted to stay in Chicago, and his deal with the Blackhawks, which averages $4 million a season, was done on June 30. It was a sizeable raise, for sure; but considering how much money was thrown around when free agency opened on July 5, he probably could’ve gotten more on the open market. Again, it didn’t matter.
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“There would’ve bee a lot of different offers and different teams, but this is the team you want to be on,” he said. “I got drafted by the Blackhawks in 2004 and this city’s a second home. The city, the fans, everybody who supports us: it’s Grade A. To take a money hit to be here, I was more than happy. I enjoy the city and I love everything about it.”
We talk about the Blackhawks’ core plenty, with the usual core names included. But considering how long he’s been here, be it in the system or on the big club, Bickell’s arguably part of that core, too.
“It took me a while to get up here from the minors. But after we won the last game, I know (general manager Stan Bowman) said they were going to do whatever it took to keep me here. ‘We feel you’re a piece of this core,’” Bickell said. “In 2010 we had to let a lot of guys go. (Bowman) felt that I was a part of it and I was honored. Hopefully I can stay here the rest of my career.”
Bickell has accomplished much. He’s got security with a new deal. He’s won two Cups with the Blackhawks and finally, this fall, he’ll see his name for the 2013 one. Bickell is part of a Blackhawks team that could keep doing some special things, and this coming season could bring even more success.
“We feel comfortable,” he said. “We lost some good pieces that helped get where we wanted… but we have some great talent in the minors that has been sitting there for a while, like I did. I got the opportunity to move in. I hope those guys will, like I did in 2010. I’m sure the team we have last year to this year will do just about the same, if not more. We’re just excited.”