Bryan Bickell was so used to the bigger European ice that when he first returned for the Blackhawks informal workouts, he misjudged the area.
I remember the first practice (back) here at Johnnys, I ran into the boards, Bickell said. All the guys liked that.
All kidding and smaller ice area aside, Bickell took advantage of his time playing over in Europe. And he said the biggest improvement he made was with his skating.
It was the systems, I think, Bickell said. There isnt a lot of structure but its a very big skating league with the bigger ice, and just the open ice so much more. It was just overall the ice and how good the skaters were. The systems arent what they are here, but it was a good league.
Bickell joined HC Znojmo, an Austrian League squad based in the Czech Republic, in early October. Besides adjusting to the country, Bickell had to get used to the bigger ice fast.
Positioning-wise, the smarter play is probably the easier play with less skating. There is so much ice, so much more time that if you give any guys that are skilled a chance, theyll blow by you. You had to position yourself in the right spot, Bickell said. It took a couple of games to figure it out; a lot of huffing and puffing those first few games. But hopefully I can keep it going over here.
Coach Joel Quenneville said he saw the change in Bickell immediately.
I noticed him the first day in camp that he's skating better, Quenneville said. He might have shed a few pounds, and he was talking about the big ice surface over there, where it's more of a skating game. We like his size, we like his quickness, and with his physicality added to that.
Bickell got his skating work in over in Europe. He hopes to keep seeing results of it now that hes back in a Blackhawks uniform.
I know we have to stick to our systems and its not a run and gun game over here, but my cardio and and fitness right now is probably the highest its ever been. Coming off that and not sitting here waiting for the season to start was huge. I feel good and were playing good.