Bryan Bickell feeling comfortable one month after retirement

Bryan Bickell feeling comfortable one month after retirement

Physically, Bryan Bickell’s decision to retire from hockey was pretty much made for him. Months after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis Bickell battled back enough to finish the season as he started it, as part of the Carolina Hurricanes’ lineup. But it was tough getting to that point.

Mentally dealing with the retirement decision, however, was another story.

“I’m sure you guys saw the video,” said Bickell referring to the emotional interview he did after playing with the Hurricanes on April 6, two days before he announced his upcoming retirement. “That’s the day before I talked to [my wife] Amanda and thought, ‘This is it.’

“We knew it was going to come,” Bickell continued. “Playing normally is tough. Now playing with what I have, it was tough to [get to] the point where I got back and finished up the way I wanted. It was tough to decide to move on. But for me and my health, and to be around my kids, was the most important thing.”

It’s been about a month since that announcement and Bickell is in a better place. The former Blackhawks forward was in Chicago on Thursday night for the NHL Go Beyond Competition, which benefits the Inner-City Education (ICE) Program. Bickell has come to terms with the end of his hockey career and is feeling much better these days.

“I’m feeling a lot better now that I’m not playing hockey. Slowing the heart rate down, slowing the body down and slowing the mind down definitely helps me feel a lot better. From the get-go to a month afterward and then working my way back, I got better,” he said on Thursday night. “I feel comfortable now. I can do a lot of things that, that month, I couldn’t really do. To move on and enjoy and hang out with the kids and do things like this [Go Beyond Competition], I’m looking forward to it.”

Bickell kept his eye on what his former Blackhawks teammates were doing, from the end of the regular season to their abrupt first-round playoff exit.

“Nashville was underrated. I know with their season they just got in [to the playoffs], but they’re a good team. I don’t say Chicago took them lightly but they didn’t find their game,” Bickell said. “I was watching the Hawks over the course of the year, what they were doing. It just didn’t carry over. With a handful of games where they didn’t matter in the standings, I don’t know if it rubbed off going into the playoff but they didn’t find that next step.

"But you can see what Nashville’s doing to St. Louis. They could be the real deal. They could be the team coming out of the west. For the Hawks to get swept, it’s definitely a hard one to swallow. But they’ll bounce back.”

Bickell and his family are still in Raleigh, N.C., but will be heading back to Canada soon. He’ll still be doing plenty with The Bryan & Amanda Bickell Foundation, which helps rescue abused pit bulls. The foundation will soon launch an MS-service dog program to help those suffering from the illness.

As for what else he may do in the future, Bickell said he’ll worry about that later. Right now, he’s just enjoying some peace.

“I’m not really looking forward to anything other than relaxing, enjoying some time and doing nothing, really. Not waking up and having a schedule, not having to be at practice and work out and do all that,” Bickell said. “I’ll just take a step back and relax.”

Blackhawks sign defenseman Michal Kempny to extension

Blackhawks sign defenseman Michal Kempny to extension

Michal Kempny was in and out of the Blackhawks lineup last season but he’ll likely get a bigger opportunity this coming season. On Saturday, he was assured of coming back to get that chance.

Kempny and the Blackhawks agreed to a one-year extension, the team announced on Saturday morning.

“Michal’s style of play is an asset to our defense,” general manager Stan Bowman said in a statement. “He is the type of player who will continue to improve now that he has transitioned to the National Hockey League. We look forward to his continued development on the ice for the Blackhawks.”

Kempny was part of a very crowded blue line last season — he was one of eight defensemen at the start of it — and played 50 regular-season games. He recorded two goals and six assists in those contests but did not play in the Blackhawks’ four postseason contests. With Johnny Oduya and Brian Campbell likely not returning, however, Kempny should get a bigger opportunity this season.

The 26-year-old Kempny also had two goals and an assist in eight games for the Czech Republic team at the 2017 World Championship.

Blackhawks announce plans for NHL Draft Fan Fest

Blackhawks announce plans for NHL Draft Fan Fest

With exactly a month to go until Chicago hosts the 2017 NHL Draft for the first time ever, the Blackhawks and league announced Wednesday their plans for Fan Fest held outside the United Center on June 23 and 24.

A handful of Blackhawks players and alumni will be in attendance and made available for photo opportunities, as will the Stanley Cup. Fans will also be able to explore the NHL Centennial Fan Arena, "a 53-foot museum truck with an innovative interior featuring more than 1,000 square feet of interactive digital displays, original video content, one-of-a-kind historical memorabilia, unique photo moments and a social media wall," according to the press release.

A full list of activities, special guest appearances and schedule will be posted at a later date.

Friday's events will run from 3 to 9 p.m. while Saturday's festivites will go from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Parking Lot C, north of the United Center.

Additional passes for the weekend will be made available to the public starting June 9. For more information, visit chicagoblackhawks.com/fanfest.