As Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival took the Stanley Cup handoff from Jamal Mayers in Boston, his joy and curiosity were audibly evident.
“Oh my God! How heavy is it? Oh my God!” Rozsival said as he grabbed and hoisted the Cup for the first time in his NHL career. Rozsival smiled at the recollection.
“I felt like a little kid,” he said before prepping for the Blackhawks’ final preseason game on Saturday. “You tell yourself it may never happen. I’m 35 years old. You don’t know how long you’ll play. It was a bit of a relief, actually.”
That relief has now turned into motivation.
Rozsival wrapped up his 13th NHL season by winning the trophy that eluded him the previous twelve. He’d played so many games and sustained some tough injuries along the way. But when the Cup celebrations were over and Rozsival had an opportunity to re-sign with the Blackhawks this season, there was no doubt he would return to try and win it again.
“It would be hard for me, especially after this year and this experience, and as much fun as I had playing hockey, to say, ‘I’m done.’ It actually made it easier to make this decision and start preparing for another (season),” Rozsival said. “I’m hoping it’s going to happen again. It’s going to be hard work – it’s a tougher season, a shorter summer and the Olympics – but that’s the way it is.”
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Rozsival entered 2012-13 on a one-year deal with the Blackhawks. He wasn’t an every-day defenseman – he and Sheldon Brookbank subbed in and out as that sixth defenseman. But it worked. Roszival was a consistent and veteran presence along the blue line, had a solid postseason, and was a good example for the 22-year-old Nick Leddy.
“He was awesome,” Leddy said. “Getting to play with him was definitely a real treat. And watching him play, a guy like me can learn a lot.”
As much as Rozsival felt like a kid again when he held that Cup, his body reminds him that he no longer is. He’s like any other NHL player who’s logged a lot of minutes and games: he’s had his injuries, the latest being to his left knee. He stayed out of scrimmages at Notre Dame before playing in two preseason games. With that in mind, Rozsival sees this season playing out like the last one regarding playing time. And since it’s to keep him healthy, that’s fine.
“So far, so good. It’s fine,” Rozsival said. “Obviously there are a few things I have to watch for, but I’ve been playing like that for a couple years. I don’t expect any problems. Everyone knows about it, and (the Blackhawks) are going to help me out with it.”
There was no doubt Rozsival would return if given the opportunity. He’s part of one of the deepest defenses in the NHL. He still loves the game, still can’t imagine walking away from it just yet. That Cup may have been a little heavier than he thought it would be. But Rozsival would love nothing more than to lift it again.
“This is going to be tough. But the motivation, the whole group still has it,” he said. “Everyone’s working hard and preparing. That’s the goal again. We’re going to try to do the same thing again.”