Stan Mikita remembered that picture of Bobby Hull in the newspaper, the one where his former Chicago Blackhawks' teammate held up an oversized check for 1 million when he signed with the Winnipeg Jets.
Mikita said some were angry at Hulls decision, crying in their beer, as he put it. But Mikita had a different reaction.
I got up and genuflected and said Thank you, Bobby, Mikita recalled. I keep saying, its the greatest move ever made by a hockey player, and Bobby Hull was the guy who did it. He gave us a new way of making a living. Now we can ask for more money and if they dont pay us we can go across the street and play for the other team. It was a hell of a move to do that for us and for himself, of course.
Six months prior to that signing in June of 1972, Hull and Mikita were in the midst of their final season together in Chicago, part of a Blackhawks squad that would win the West Division for the second consecutive season.
And on Friday night, Comcast SportsNet relives a classic from that season, the Blackhawks vs. Toronto Maple Leafs from Dec. 11, 1971.
Fridays Classic game featured eight future Hall of Fame inductees, including Mikita, Hull and Tony Esposito. The Blackhawks were in the midst of a 10-game undefeated streak at the time, and would go on to win the West by 21 points.
Earlier this week Mikita sat down with us to talk about those times, from that season to former teammates to his love of Chicago, where he played his entire career.
The big deal with this whole thing is my wife, Jill. She wanted to know if we belong here or if wed be happy somewhere else, Mikita said. I couldnt have drawn it any better than what transpired for our family. Someone said Chicagos a town that never shuts down. Theyre probably right. Great people.
And as for that 1971-72 team, what made it so good?
In one word: lucky. But Im kidding, of course, on that one, Mikita said. Billy Reay was our coach, and he gave us something to work for and with and put the right people together. All the fellows were on a one-way ticket to nowhere before that. When Billy had his famous talks, thats what turned us around.
Comcast SportsNet will be re-airing Blackhawks Classics until the NHL lockout comes to an end. Tune in tonight at 7:00 p.m. for the 1971 vintage re-air of a black and white "Hockey Night in Canada" telecast.
Join in on the conversation during tonight's game by using HawksClassics on Twitter.
On April 22, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman vented his frustrations on the team’s all-too-abrupt exit from the postseason, adding that he and coach Joel Quenneville, “are going to work together to make sure that this never happens again.”
There will be plenty of decisions for the two to mull between now and September, when the Blackhawks convene for training camp. When it comes to the assistant head coach vacancy, however, that might need to be decided with a more one-sided approach. That choice ultimately should be made by Quenneville.
In a recent podcast, Pat Boyle and I discussed the Blackhawks’ need to work together on some upcoming decisions. But with the assistant coach, the head coach has to have the loudest voice. The head coach probably should even have the final vote. The relationship between coaches has to be there because they’re around each other constantly. They’ve got to be on the same page. There has to be trust from Day 1.
As for when the Blackhawks name that assistant, there appears to be nothing imminent. A source said Monday that the Blackhawks and Ulf Samuelsson have been in communication about the job — Chris Kuc of the Tribune first reported on Samuelsson on Sunday. On paper it looks like it would be a great fit. Samuelsson and Quenneville played several seasons together with the Hartford Whalers, along with current Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen. The relationship with Samuelsson has been there for a long time and it would make for a smoother transition. It might also provide somewhat of a panacea for Quenneville after former assistant Mike Kitchen, whose friendship with Quenneville also went back to their playing days, was fired last month.
Earlier this month Bowman told the Sun-Times that Quenneville will have a big role in the Blackhawks’ finding their next assistant coach, with the final choice being a “joint collaboration.” We get that there’s an order to these things and everyone has to be in agreement with the final decision. But in the end the head coach has to be 100-percent happy with his immediate staff. So whoever the next assistant coach is, the decision has to be 100 percent Quenneville’s.
The Blackhawks shared their condolences after the passing of former defenseman Bill White on Monday.
"The Chicago Blackhawks organization extends its thoughts and heartfelt condolences to Bill White's family as we mourn his loss," the team's statement read. "He will be remembered as a leader, generous teammate and tough player to play against. His energetic style helped the Blackhawks see great success during his tenure with the team."
White spent seven seasons with the Blackhawks — part of a nine-year NHL career — scoring 30 goals and tallying 149 assists.
He appeared in six consecutive All-Star Games from 1969 to 1974 and helped the Blackhawks to the playoffs in all seven of his seasons in Chicago.
White also had a brief stint as the Blackhawks' head coach, manning the bench for the final 46 games of the 1976-77 season.