Brian Noonan played under Mike Keenan on those two clubs, as well as the Blues and Canucks, in a five-team, 12-year NHL career. Now, the skate’s on the other foot.
Noonan’s in his eighth year as the head varsity coach at Naperville North High School and has led it to the best season in the program’s history. The Huskies took a 42-13-6 record into Tuesday night’s Metro West Cup title game versus Sandburg, before a Wednesday night rematch in the Blackhawk Cup quarterfinals. While Noonan played at Chicago Stadium during his Hawks career, he later faced them as an opponent at the United Center. There remains a possibility he could coach his team behind one of those benches for the Blackhawk Cup on March 24.
When we caught up with former winger Monday night in Romeoville to discuss his team (and his life now as a coach) we couldn’t help but ask about his original club’s record season-opening 24-game points streak.
“It’s crazy. People ask what’s the one thing that’s been great for them,” Noonan said. “There’s no way it can only be one thing with the streak they’ve had. Their goaltending’s been great. All their players have been great. A lot of the guys were playing overseas [during the lockout]. I’m sure that helped. Just the way they jelled together and the streak they went on, it just shows what kind of team they have, what kind of coach they have ... they’re as good as anybody in the league and have as good a chance as anybody.”
The Boston-area native knew the run wouldn’t go on forever and isn’t about to get too concerned yet about the way things went last weekend versus Colorado and Edmonton -- provided it’s properly stored in the players’ memory bank and put to use.
“You knew it was going to end, unfortunately. I’m sure there will still be some tough times, and I think you have to go through tough times during the season -- it gets you ready for the playoffs. There’s a lot of guys on the team that won the Cup, and they know that. Any tough stretch they have, they’re going to learn from it.”
Noonan played just seven games for the Hawks’ last Presidents' Trophy winner in 1991 -- which was then promptly knocked off in the first round of the playoffs. He had a much greater role the following year, when the Hawks rebounded to reach the Stanley Cup Final before being swept by Pittsburgh. The 1994 team in New York won both the Presidents' and Stanley Cup. But just once since 2002 has the Presidents' Trophy winner also gone on to win the Cup, and three of the last four have met the same first round fate as those 1991 Hawks.
While this first-half burst out of the gate has been good for the ego of Blackhawks Nation, Noonan knows sitting atop the NHL World on April 28 won’t matter -- even after setting the bar so high the first seven weeks.
“They’re probably looking to get themselves set up for the playoffs and make a good run.”
For more on Brian Noonan and his coaching of Naperville North, tune in to “SportsNet Central” at 10 p.m. Thursday, following Comcast SportsNet’s coverage of the Chicago Blackhawks vs. Columbus Blue Jackets