By Mark Lazerus
As he was asked about the determination he had to return to hockey — even for just a game or two — after he first received his diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, Bryan Bickell’s daughter Kinslee toddled up alongside him, tracing her finger over the Blackhawks logo on the backdrop behind her dad. Bickell bent down and picked her up, and the tears started flowing.
Bickell always was a bit of a crier.
“There were times I didn’t know if I could do this,” Bickell said, motioning toward the little girl in his arms. “Didn’t know if I could play hockey. As the months went on, I got better, and we set goals. And to see that last shot go in [in a shootout against the Flyers in his final game], it was definitely special. My shooting percentage in shootouts is 50 percent, which is nice. It was a good way to go out.”
That wasn’t quite the end of Bickell’s career, it turned out. The playoff hero signed a one-day contract with the Hawks on Wednesday, going out with the team that drafted him and helped him hoist the Stanley Cup over his head three times.
Bickell, who spent the last two seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes, said the Hawks called him shortly after he announced that the game in Philadelphia would be his last.
“It was great to be a part of it, and we have so much history here,” he said. “I didn’t want it any other way.”
His cap hit? “I don’t know,” Bickell said. “A fishing trip?”
Bickell’s hockey career is done; he moved to New Castle, Ontario, to be closer to his family. But his battle with MS is just beginning. He said he hopes to become a face for the disease, an inspiration to others fighting it.
Cody Franson expected all along that he’d sign with the Hawks once Marian Hossa’s situation was squared away — after all, it’s a big reason he turned down actual contract offers from other teams to come to Chicago on a player-tryout agreement.
But there was still a sense of relief when he finally signed a one-year, $1 million contract on Wednesday.
“It definitely allows you to take a bit of a deeper breath,” Franson said. “Nice to have that done, out of the way, and be able to just focus on the regular season and getting off on the right foot here.”
Franson’s signing was announced Wednesday morning shortly after the Hawks officially — and finally — put Hossa on long-term injured reserve. Hossa will sit out the entire season — and likely the other three years remaining on his contract — because of a skin condition and the side effects of the medication he has been taking for it.
The Hawks completed their cap maneuvering by recalling defenseman Gustav Forsling and forward Alex DeBrincat, who were assigned to Rockford on Tuesday in a paper-only transaction.
Tootoo on LTIR
Jordin Tootoo cleared waivers on Tuesday, but was put on LTIR instead of being sent to Rockford. Joel Quenneville said Tootoo suffered an upper-body injury during camp but didn’t get into specifics.
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