Blackhawks of the past opening doors for the future

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Blackhawks of the past opening doors for the future

When Cliff Koroll and the late Keith Magnuson decided to form the Blackhawks Alumni Association, it was originally to help assist fellow former players in need.

Then they decided to accept applications and award a college scholarship to a deserving local high school hockey player through the year-round fund-raising done by the BAA. That first scholarship was for 1,500 and went to Tom Dillon.

25 years later, Dillon now organizes the annual luncheon honoring that years recipients, and the Class of 2012 and the All-State team were recognized Monday at the Hyatt Lodge at McDonalds Campus in Oak Brook. Most of the current Blackhawks players were there, many alumni and coach Joel Quenneville as well as the bulk of the front office, including Chairman Rocky Wirtz and President & CEO John McDonough.

We had 71 applications this year, said Koroll, the Associations President. Ten of us went through all the applications. We had a scoring system, and these three kids were way above everybody else.

Congratulations to Laura Brennan, Jacob Wachlin and Stephanie Jackson.

We got another three great kids two females, which shows that women are slowly taking over here, Koroll smiled. I think that gives us eight or nine girls thatve been recipients.

The decision process is based on five categories, with each applicant receiving up to ten points in each category by the ten panelists. Theyre judged based on need, their grades, community involvement, character (through letters of recommendation) and essays they write on what hockey means to them and why they feel theyre deserving. Koroll says four of the top six applicants were females, a statement as to how far girls hockey has come in Illinois.

Im really excited to be part of the organization. When I got the call, I just kept saying thank you over and over again because I didnt know what else to say, said Brennan, who attends Oak Park-River Forest High School but plays defense for Fenwick and has yet to decide where to attend college. (Hockeys) definitely shaped me as a person. Socially, Ive met a lot of friends through hockey, people Ill never forget. But its also helped me become a better thinker. Just playing hockey forces me to make decisions faster and think more critically about things. Its given me opportunities to meet new people, try new things and given me the confidence to do that.

Wachlin was similarly excited upon finding out he got the scholarship.

I was just so pumped (when receiving the phone call), said Wachlin, who is home-schooled in Arlington Heights and plays left wing for PREP (a team formed from students from Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Elk Grove and Prospect). It was just so exciting to get the phone call, I was so pumped after seeing so many Hawks games. Its just cool to get helped out for school by such a cool organization.

Wachlin wants to pursue mechanical engineering at either Michigan Tech or M.I.T., while Jackson, who plays center for the Naper Valley Warriors, plans on attending Illinois and playing for its club team while studying animal sciences for veterinary medicine.

When they called, I didnt get the news. They called my mom, and when she told me, I didnt believe her at first, said Jackson. The next day, I got about 20 emails from people in the (Blackhawks) organization congratulating me.

The Alumni Association has now awarded 82 scholarships, providing more than 1 million worth of education to its recipients.

In wake of first-round playoff sweep, Patrick Kane talks about the Blackhawks' 'reality check'

In wake of first-round playoff sweep, Patrick Kane talks about the Blackhawks' 'reality check'

It’s been just over a month since the Blackhawks were eliminated from the playoffs in swift fashion. And as Patrick Kane told WGN Radio on Tuesday morning, the bitter taste hasn’t gone away.

“I think a lot of us didn’t figure we’d be in the situation we’re in right now,” Kane told Steve Cochran and Dave Eanet on Tuesday. “All of us can work this offseason to get better. It’s a long time to wait to get back to that opportunity to play in the playoffs again, so we’ll have a sour taste in our mouth for a while.”

The Nashville Predators, who made quick work of the Blackhawks in the first round, eliminated the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night to earn the first Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history. Kane told WGN he’s been watching the playoffs and said Nashville “has a pretty good system going.”

“They come at you, they play aggressive. I don’t think any of us would be a big fan of the way they defend in the neutral zone, just sitting back and playing that 1-3-1. But at the same time they come at you,” said Kane, who added that the Blackhawks “weren’t even close in that (first-round) series.”

“Maybe we had a chance in Game 3 when we were up 2-0, but it was a clean sweep and that’s probably how it should’ve been,” he said. “So now it’s time to regroup.”

When the Blackhawks had their wrap-up media session on April 22, general manager Stan Bowman was asked if some players, having won three Stanley Cups since 2010, had lost some of the hunger. Bowman didn’t buy that and neither did Kane.

“Four sounds a lot better than three, right?” he said. “It’s a long time away and a lot of work, but sometimes you go through those situations and you realize you won three Cups and it’s almost like you’re going to be there again. That’s where the reality check is for us now, realizing how hard it is to get back in that situation, how hard it is to win a Cup or go deep in this league. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

Should Blackhawks' next assistant coach be Joel Quenneville's choice?

Should Blackhawks' next assistant coach be Joel Quenneville's choice?

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.