TAMPA, Fla. — Bryan Bickell missed Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final with an “upper-body injury,” and is day-to-day, according to Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.
Bickell sat out the last two periods of Game 7 of the Western Conference final in what Quenneville said was both a coach’s decision and an injury issue. Bickell did, however, practice on Tuesday and skated Wednesday morning.
With Bickell out, Kris Versteeg drew back into the lineup. Versteeg had played just one game in the last two rounds, a healthy scratch each time. Versteeg just became a father on Monday, and flew from Chicago to Toronto to Chicago to Tampa, missing Tuesday’s practice but participating in Wednesday’s morning skate.
“My main focus obviously at the time was the health of the kid,” he said. “Your other main focus has to be trying to win the Stanley Cup. It’s a lot to take in. But it’s not hard to separate both. When you’re not at the rink you take care of that. When you’re at the rink, you take care of this. And when you’re not playing, you’ve got to stay ready and be ready to play whenever.”
Versteeg played 9:32, with his most memorable moment being a scary face-first collision with the post when he stumbled (or was tripped, depending on your point of view) into Ben Bishop in the Lightning net. He was slow to get up, but went directly to the penalty box for goalie interference on the play.
“Yeah, that was a little ugly, but I had to collect my thoughts there and go on with the game,” Versteeg said afterward.
He seemed fine afterward, but given the brutal nature of the contact, it raised some eyebrows that he wasn’t taken off the ice to check for a concussion. Quenneville said afterward that the Hawks did everything right and “absolutely” followed proper protocol.
“There’s a protocol in the league as far as head blows,” he said. “We call them concussions, but I don’t think it was a concussion. There’s certain measures that we have to follow.”
It wasn’t too long ago that the Blackhawks were just a bunch of kids, more than a few of them a little on the wild side, living it up at home and on the road and winning a Stanley Cup in 2010. Now, even Versteeg’s living the dad life.
“It’s pretty amazing when you look around, with [Dustin Byfuglien] and [Andrew] Ladd and [Ben] Eager and [Colin] Fraser and the list goes on — everyone has kids there, too,” said Versteeg, whose first son, Jaxson James, was born on Monday. “We [were] a bunch of young bucks who liked to have fun, and now everyone’s settled down and raising a family. It’s pretty funny.”
Hawks owner Rocky Wirtz on the Lightning’s policy of excluding fans in Hawks attire in certain sections of Amalie Arena: “A few years ago, it didn’t matter if this was Chicago or Tampa Bay — we were lucky [if] we had 3,000 fans. So it is exciting. It’s a fine compliment to our fans that we would have that many that would go on the road. So I can’t speak about Tampa Bay, but I can say that if there’s anyone from Tampa that wants to come to Chicago, we have a great city, you’re welcome to our city, you can spend your money in our city – museums, restaurants, bars. Heaven forbid we ever get anything from Wirtz Beverage off the bars. Please come. If I could say one thing to the fans of Tampa – come to Chicago, spend your money and leave a lot of green.”