Rookie Collin Delia lived out of a suitcase in a hotel for more than two months, while Corey Crawford was recovering from a concussion.
Though Crawford’s activation last month meant the young goalie would be demoted to Rockford, he was delighted to return to his apartment and settle back into his own space.
“I’m definitely thankful to be back here,” he told the Sun-Times in a phone interview on Tuesday. “It’s awesome. I love having my own space and be able to spread out.”
Less than five minutes after the interview concluded, it was back to hotel living for Delia.
The Blackhawks recalled the 24-year-old on an emergency basis in place of Cam Ward, who is expected to be out for seven to 10 days with a right knee injury.
Though the Hawks might not use Delia during this stint (they have one day off between each of their next three games), it gives him a nice opportunity to work beside a healthy Crawford.
Delia knows he still has a ways to go to be considered an elite goalie in the NHL. He was impressive out of the gates, going 3-1-1 with a .947 save percentage in his first five games with the Hawks this season. And then he stumbled and allowed 13 goals in his last three outings.
“It’s important to take it in strides and look at it for what it is,” said Delia, who still holds a team-best .909 save percentage. “You want to compete and you want to be effective out there but then you realize you’re human and you’re prone to error. So you use it as fuel and I’ll use it to get better.
“It is my first year playing in the NHL really playing in more than a few games so there’s going to be trials and tribulations but all-in-all if I can come out learning something on the end, I think it’s going to be positive.”
The Hawks like Delia’s ability to put setbacks into perspective.
“As a normal progression for a young goalie, he’s had some ups and downs, but he’s had a lot more ups than downs,” general manager Stan Bowman said last month. “Your job as a goalie is to step up your preparation and work on your technical part of your game. And that’s what I really love about Collin, he’s a student of the game. If you talk to him, he wants to get better. He’s always trying to push himself to expand his game.”
Bowman and coach Jeremy Colliton both said they see Delia as part of the future. He’ll likely be the Hawks’ No. 2 goalie next season as Ward’s contract expires at the end of this season.
But Delia isn’t looking that far ahead yet.
“Next year the team isn’t picked yet so anyone can really have a spot if you work hard enough and have a good enough performance,” he said. “It’s a nice tip of the cap but back to work and working hard and doing the necessary things that lead to on-ice success.”
Delia is locked in on helping Rockford, who is 10 points out of first place in the Central Division. And he’s hoping his experience in the NHL could help the IceHogs when he returns.
“Playing in those big games … I can apply that mental focus and that level-headedness when it comes to crunch time here,” Delia said. “I’ll be looking to use that experience to benefit my team staying even-keeled and making some big saves and allowing them to play a little bit looser and put the puck in the net.”