SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Twenty-five years ago, Stan Bowman packed up his belongings and was heading home. He had just completed his freshman year at Notre Dame when he realized he wanted to join the family business.
At the time his father, Scotty Bowman, was the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Although Stan Bowman didn't want to follow in his dad's exact footsteps, he dreamed of one day working with him in the NHL in some capacity.
That dream has since come true.
"My dad's passion for hockey is what sort of rubbed off on me," the younger Bowman said. "I look back at my childhood, and it's the one thing I remember, just him having a passion for the game of hockey and that's something he introduced me to."
Fast-forward to Wednesday as the Blackhawks arrived in South Bend for the start of training camp. Bowman returned to his alma mater, but this time, as the general manager of the defending Stanley Cup champions, just hours after being offered a two-year contract extension.
With him now are 56 athletes; many of them looking to get their first break on Chicago's big stage.
"It's quite a backdrop for me to be back here at the university where I spent four of the best years of my life," he said. "I loved it here, it was a special place. I think anyone who's been (to) school knows it's an interesting part of your life when you come to college as a boy and you leave as more of a man."
That transition is something plenty of young Blackhawks are looking to make as they fight for one of few spots available on Chicago's roster. Now they're given that chance to do so on the road at a place with plenty of rich meaning and history.
"There always comes that time in a young player's career when they have to be given the opportunity, and we have that this year," Bowman said. "We have some spots open and a number of players competing for those spots. Some of these guys have spent two or three years in the American League in Rockford, honing their craft.
"In some ways, they've probably been more than ready to take the next step, but they have to do it. Nothing is promised to them, so I'm interested to see which guys reach out and take hold of it."
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But training camp isn't just about the young players; it's about the team coming together as a whole and establishing a chemistry that will carry them into the season. With a majority of the Stanley Cup team remaining in Chicago, the Blackhawks will use this week to get back to work and begin a new chapter.
"Today's the first day of training camp, we're happy to be back together as a group," captain Jonathan Toews said. "When we think about how we want to start the season and how we want to play early on, we obviously want to win a lot of games and have a great start like we did last year."
That process will begin Thursday morning as the Blackhawks take the ice for the first time at the Compton Family Ice Arena.
"(This is) a great building. I heard a lot about it, a couple buddies I played hockey with have been here before and they were raving about it, so I kind of had high expectations," Toews continued. "It's a great building, and we're looking forward to getting on the ice and just getting on this college campus. It's a pretty cool place to be."
Whether the Blackhawks make an annual trip to Notre Dame for their training camp remains to be seen, but Bowman believes the change of scenery in South Bend could benefit the team for years to come.
"We're not going to rule anything out," he said. "We talked about seeing how this goes, but there's a lot of excitement."