Chicago Blackhawks open their training camp at Notre Dame
After one of the shortest off-seasons in pro sports history, the Chicago Blackhawks are opening their training camp on the road.
Spending a lot of time on the road early in the abbreviated 2013 season didn't seem to hurt the Blackhawks; after all, they not only set a league record to open the season, but went on to win both the President's Trophy and the Stanley Cup. The players seem eager to prove that this year, there will be no "Stanley Cup hangover".
With a shortened summer and just a few days before pre-season games get underway, having training camp at Notre Dame allows the team to focus on camp without the distractions of home, and allows for the kind of team bonding that happens on the road.
While the team will be returning mostly intact from last season, the Blackhawks expect to fill most, if not all of their roster holes from within. Players like Brandon Pirri, Jimmy Hayes, Ben Smith, and Jeremy Morin are expected to potentially make the leap from the team's AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, to the main team.
Stan Bowman made few trades and let a couple players walk this summer. Game 6 hero Dave Bolland was traded to Toronto; penalty killer Michael Frolik got traded to the Jets; speedy forward Viktor Stalberg signed with the Predators. Jamal Mayers, who won the first Cup of his career this June, was not re-signed.
Bowman got several key players from the Cup-winning team under new contracts this summer: Corey Crawford, Bryan Bickell, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger, and Nick Leddy. They also re-signed Michal Handzus and Michal Rozsival. Kyle Beach and Ryan Stanton, who have been in the Blackhawks system for a few seasons, both signed one-year contracts.
Chicago did make some new signings over the summer. Drew LeBlanc made his NHL debut last spring and signed a two-year contract with the team. Players like Brad Winchester, Theo Peckham and Michael Kostka signed one-year contracts; all are likely to end up in Rockford.
Perhaps the one surprise was the signing of Nikolai Khabibulin to be Corey Crawford's backup. Khabibulin played with the Blackhawks previously and has been with the Oilers the past couple of seasons. Ray Emery, who shared goaltending duties with Crawford last season, went to the Flyers, where he likely will be the team starter.
Standout Finnish goalie Antti Raanta was signed earlier in the summer; he is expected to start the season in Rockford to become accustomed to the smaller North American ice. Raanta will share duties in Rockford with either Mac Carruth or Kent Simpson.
The team will also get its first long look at Finnish phenom Teuvo Teräväinen at camp this year. Teräväinen, drafted 18th overall in 2012, just turned 19 this week, but has already spent two years with top SM-liiga team Jokerit. It is expected that Teräväinen will return to Jokerit for the season, because he would get top-line ice time there to continue his development. However, after an exciting performance at the U-20 camp at Lake Placid this summer, a lot of buzz has built around Teräväinen's potential.
Wednesday was fitness testing and media day for the Blackhawks. The team will have two days of private practice at Notre Dame, then there will be two mornings of public training camp on Saturday and Sunday. The team returns to Chicago for its annual Training Camp Festival on Monday night, and plays their first preseason game against the visiting Washington Capitals on Tuesday.
The Blackhawks raise their Stanley Cup banner on Tuesday, October 1st at 7:00 p.m. CDT; that game will be against the Capitals and airs on NBCSN.