Road to the NHL: Growing up with the Blackhawks

Road to the NHL: Growing up with the Blackhawks
July 19, 2014, 5:30 pm
Nina Falcone

At the age of 14, Brandon Saad nearly called it quits.

It had been a long day at the rink, playing alongside guys three or four years older than him for the first time. All of a sudden he wasn't the fastest skater and the sharpest shooter; it was that frustration that almost caused him to hang up his skates.

But in the end, it was a combination of that frustration and the guidance of his parents that made Saad want to take his game to the next level.

"He came home one day and said, 'That's it, I don't want to play hockey anymore,'" his father, George Saad, recalled. "At one point, we noticed at four or five (years old), Brandon showed a lot of talent, and I started noticing myself that he's better than most of the kids.

"I had to play the mind game to encourage my son that he has what it takes and just have to be patient. It will come. And it did come, and he exceeded all my expectations."

[MORE: With big expectations, Saad not worried about contract]

That story was just one of many told on Saturday at the annual Blackhawks Convention, as both Saad and Andrew Shaw were joined by their fathers to discuss the paths that guided them to the NHL.

For any professional athlete, a trip to the big stage doesn't come without a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication. And while each player's path is different, both Saad and Shaw reiterated that without the support from their families, they wouldn't be sitting where they are today.

"I think they had more passion for the game than we did," Shaw said. "They're always there pushing us, when we're going through bad times they're always there to catch us and help us out."

In Shaw's case, his entire hockey career had been an upward battle. Since being passed over in the NHL Draft before eventually being selected by the Blackhawks, he hasn't been shy about showing the rest of the league what they missed out on.

"I was always told I wasn't big enough to play in the NHL, but I like to piss people off so I proved them wrong," he said.

"Andrew had to always come and fight for everything," his father, Doug, continued. "Everything he did, he did on his own. One year we were all going to quit hockey and start skiing. We told the kids that and (Andrew) said, 'You can't hit anybody skiing.' It's all been a roller coaster, but in the end it's all worth it."

[RELATED: Blackhawks impressed with Teravainen, but reiterate patience]

In any case, plenty of sacrifices have to be made in families when a child shows the talent and dedication to stick with a sport in the long run. On Saturday, both parents talked about all that went into raising an NHL player, and both players gave their families all the credit for making their dreams come true.

"That passion from (our parents), you see that in this team because we have a lot of it," Shaw said. "We love playing hockey and hope to win a lot more championships for this city."