HAWL IN: The meaningful end to the NHL regular season

CHICAGO – If you missed the Blackhawks loss to the Avalanche, that’s OK. If you forgot to tune in for their overtime game against the Kings, all is forgiven.

Really any of the team’s last four losses of the season could be taken with a grain of salt. A President’s Trophy for the best record in the league would be nice, but it’s nothing like the prize that awaits the Blackhawks with 16 win in the postseason.

With the Western Conference’s top seed clinched up, Joel Quenneville rested his players. Just like he should have. It made for some meaningless hockey but now the season gets real.

That’s what life did for Bryan Bickell in the 2016-2017 season. There was no tomorrow for his career this weekend, only today.

After an inspiring comeback to the Hurricanes’ lineup following a Multiple Sclerosis diagnoses last week, the former Blackhawks forward announced he would retire at the end of the is season in hopes of spending more time with his family.

It’s a noble move for a noble player who deservedly dominated the spotlight on an NHL weekend of otherwise little consequence.

 

Oddly enough it was the team that traded him away that had a number of tributes to the three-time Stanley Cup champions. This tweet remains pinned to the top of the Blackhawks’ Twitter account even as the team begins the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Proud to have shared great memories like this one with you Bicks!! Congrats on a great career! @bbickell

A post shared by Jonathan Toews (@jonathantoews) on

Jonathan Toews’ tribute to Bickell recalled his greatest Blackhawks memory from Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. His goal was the first of two in the now famed “17 Seconds” that got the Blackhawks their fifth Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Finding such tribute from Blackhawks fans isn’t a surprise to many considering the strong reputation as a teammate and player he built in nine seasons with the team. But the respect he earned in just under a dozen games in Carolina speaks to his character and the way he dealt with the MS diagnosis this past November.

During the “Walk MS” event outside PNC Arena in Raleigh, one which Bickell was a guest of honor, every one of his teammates came to the event to participate on behalf of him. The walked out in “#BickellBrave” T-Shirts, causing the forward to get a bit emotional before the event.

The franchise awarded him their Steve Chaisson Determination and Dedication Award before he took the ice in front of the home fans for one final game. Hurricanes fans, who got to know Bickell for less than a year, gave him a hero’s ovation.

The next night, in his final NHL game, Bickell got a first in his last time on the ice.

The shootout goal capped off a decade in hockey for Bickell. He was remembered for his talent in Chicago and his perseverance in Carolina after the MS diagnosis. The significance of his comeback from the ailment wasn’t lost on hockey fans in one final weekend of regular season hockey.

It was memorable, proving that some things even matter more than the standings.