Hawk Talk: Buff's toughness comes from Grandpa

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Hawk Talk: Buff's toughness comes from Grandpa

Friday, May 28, 2010
2:15 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO It started in Nashville, with an unprompted run of screams, slapshots and self-checks on the boards. Aggressive, hitting, the way his grandfather taught him to play.

Let the wild rumpus begin, indeed.

The Blackhawks were deadlocked 1-1 in their quarterfinals series with the Predators, and Dustin Byfuglien professed that his unprompted attack on an innocent section of boards at the Bridgestone Center, coupled with loud screams that literally stopped the arena cold (and amused his teammates to no end) was him just fooling around.

But soon, Brian Campbell would return to the lineup and Byfuglien was a temporary defenseman no more. And in the process of not only moving back to offense but onto the Blackhawks top line, the 64, 257-pound power forward changed the course of Chicagos season forever.

Byfuglien leads the team with eight goalsall in the last eight games of the playoffsand four game-winners, including three deciding tallies in the recent sweep of the San Jose Sharks.

For his part, the soft-spoken, fifth-year player smiles sheepishly and shakes his head when reminded of his outburst a month ago. Befitting a man whos usually the biggest in the room but would rather be overlooked and left to his own devices, it takes a few tries to get him to talk about that latest transition time in his career.

It was nothing, really, Byfuglien said. I was just having a good time, trying to loosen up the guys. Wed played so solid at home, and this was our first road game in the playoffs.

Big Buff in fact may have done much too good a job readying up his mates for road work. While the Blackhawks would lose Game 3 in Nashville, it was the last road loss of the postseason for Chicago.

Yeah, maybe I did, but thats a good thing, right? Byfuglien says, laughing.

Theres another side to Dr. Buffs motivational techniques, however, and it comes from something ingrained in him from a very young age, from his grandfather, Kenny.

Byfuglien, for those who arent familiar, was raised in rural Roseau, Minn. (just south of the Canadian border) by his mother and grandparents, living in a trailer behind his grandparents house. His mother, Cheryl, worked a blue-collar job to support Dustin, and as a youngster he spent a lot of his free time on local outdoor rinks, playing with his cousins.

Byfuglien was four when he started playing hockey, growing to idolize his cousin Derrick, who seemed like an NHL player to me, as a little kid, Byfuglien said.

But it is Byfugliens grandfather whos made a lasting impression. Buff went so far as to admit that the first call he would make after Chicagos clinching of a Stanley Cup berth on Sunday would be his grandpa, and yesterday at the Stanley Cup media day, he updated the story.

It took me awhile to get through to him, Byfuglien said. He was pretty excited to hear from me, and excited about the game.

Byfuglien had predicted that his game-winning goal to clinch the Blackhawks first Stanley Cup berth in would get his grandpa off the couch, and indeed it did.

He was so excited, Byfuglien says with visible pride, and the closest youll get him to blushing. Hes my biggest fan, and he was hollering for me.

While his grandpa imparted many lessons on long truck drives together, from practical things like his decorum on the ice and how he should treat his coaches, to life lessons and encouragement.

But when it comes to what Grandpa Kenny is most excited to see from Roseaus favorite son, its something decidedly less polite.

What does my grandpa like to see, me score a goal or make a big hit? Byfuglien repeats. Thats easy, no questionhe wants to see me hit.

A goal gets him off the couch, but hes always telling me to be physical. So a big hit, that might get him jumping around the room.

Grandpa Kenny hasnt seen any playoff games so far in 2010, but hes on his way down to watch the Blackhawks host the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 on Saturday. So fans, ushers, bewareif you see an older gentleman looking positively Buff-ish and leaping through the aisles after a big Byfuglien hit, you can call him Kenny.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

Ulf Samuelsson saw the changes the Blackhawks made this season, his hiring as assistant coach being one of them. Soon he’ll be working with the team’s defensemen, another area that’s had some upheaval.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity here, some uncertainties and some moving parts that I probably, typically haven’t seen going into a season. So that makes it even more interesting and challenging,” Samuelsson said. “So I’m looking forward to this opportunity to really develop and work with some of the younger players.”

From its immediate coach to its personnel, the Blackhawks’ defense is dealing with plenty of change that will continue when the season begins this fall. The Blackhawks have had some addition (Connor Murphy, Jan Rutta and Jordan Oesterle) but dealing with the subtraction (Niklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk) will nevertheless be tough. Coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday that pairings are a work in progress.

“We’re going to see when we’re putting the pairs together, whether we're going to reunite [Duncan Keith] and [Brent Seabrook] or look for some balance,” he said. “There are a lot of options. We’ll look forward to that and sorting it out.”

For Murphy, who was acquired in the deal that sent Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes, there are no set expectations as to where he fits yet.

“With any team you go into training camp proving where you’re going to be. Everyone has to come in and earn certain positions, especially me being a guy who they’re not as familiar with; I have to show what I can do,” Murphy said. “I definitely want to bring a more physical edge to defending at times and be able to skate well, have a good reach, make smart reads and try to help out with whatever’s needed with that.”

As for young players, the opportunity is there. Gustav Forsling admits he wasn’t happy that fellow Swede and role model Hjalmarsson was traded. But Forsling, who looked strong coming out of camp last September, knows he has to take advantage of the situation.

“Of course, I want to take the next step and play more,” he said. “I want to keep progressing my game and keep developing.”

The same goes for Jordan Oesterle, who the Blackhawks signed to a two-year deal on July 1.

“When I wanted to come here the opportunity was tremendous. Just the chance to come in and try to make the top six is there, it’s a battle with a number of us guys but that’s all you ask for in the situation I’m in,” he said. “Just the amount of opportunity that is in front of me just drives me even more. I want to be here and force their hand to keep me here.”

Again, the Blackhawks could re-address defense once they implement Marian Hossa’s long-term injured reserve after the season begins. General manager Stan Bowman said there’s “no exact plan” right now on how they use that space – “that’s probably going to be dictated by where we’re at when we get to October, how the team’s playing, what areas are strong, what areas we want to add to,” he said.

It remains to be seen on that front. Regardless, from coaching to personnel, much has changed with the Blackhawks defense. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Blackhawks Convention Opening Ceremonies

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Blackhawks Convention Opening Ceremonies

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, we're live at the 2017 Blackhawks Convention. 

Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp join David Kaplan and Pat Boyle to talk about returning to Chicago. 

Later Boyle, CSN Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers, Chris Kuc and Sam Panayotovich discuss the huge roster changes this offseason. 

Listen to the STL Pod below.