Dominik Kubalik’s hot start — and beloved chihuahua — helps him settle in Chicago
The Czech rookie has excelled from Day 1 with the Blackhawks. He’s feeling at home now in the city, too.
Dominik Kubalik, during the first weekend of training camp, cracked that he was pestering fellow Czech forward David Kampf with a few too many questions.
“He’s a little mad at me right now because I’m still asking him, ‘What’s that? Where are we going? Where’s the training room?’ ” Kubalik said with a laugh at the time.
How quickly things have changed.
A month and a half later, Kubalik has become a consistent force on the Blackhawks’ most stable and effective line, with Kampf still by his side. He got his first NHL goal out of the way — and his second, too — and also has proved his worth defensively. And he definitely knows where the training room is now.
“It’s always good to have a line together, especially so I’m not talking to myself,” Kubalik said Thursday. “It’s hockey, so you never know what’s going to happen [to the line] after the first period today or in the next few days. But when you know what to expect from the other guys, it’s easier.
“You don’t have to keep your head up all the time [to see] where the other guys are; you probably know where they should be or what they’re going to do.”
Kubalik said Kampf remained his tour guide for roughly the first two weeks of the preseason. The two had played previously on the Czech under-20 team, although they were adversaries in the Czech league until Kampf came to the NHL and Kubalik went to Switzerland.
They have reunited and become close friends on the Hawks, sometimes leaving Brandon Saad out to dry language-wise on their line.
“They kind of babble to each other and then translate to me,” Saad joked recently.
“It’s always nice when there’s somebody you can ask or someone you can follow because everything is new for me, everything is still pretty big,” Kubalik said. “You’re trying to figure out if you need something, and you know who you should ask.”
Kubalik was able to visit family when the Hawks went to Prague — only an hour drive from his hometown of Plzen — and then his mom, girlfriend and beloved chihuahua Rocky came back with him to Chicago.
His mom is back in the Czech Republic, but his girlfriend and dog remain. Alex DeBrincat’s Instagram-famous Shiba Inu, Ralph, soon might have competition in the Hawks’ canine universe.
Kubalik’s growing comfort level in North America, aided by the fact that he spent two seasons (from 2012 to 2014) playing in Canadian juniors, has translated into a growing ease in the dressing room, too. Coach Jeremy Colliton has noticed his swift integration.
“Things are different here, hockey-wise in North American culture, but I think he is naturally more outgoing, and it probably has helped him fit into the group,” Colliton said. “But, also, it helps when you play well. He’s been playing great, tremendous work ethic, and your teammates love that.”
He has indeed been playing well. Despite a dip —along with the rest of the team —in Thursday’s 4-1 loss to the Flyers, Kubalik currently leads all Hawks forwards in shot attempts and shots on goal and ranks second in scoring chances.
Not bad for a guy who didn’t know his way around Fifth Third Arena last month.
“On the ice, there are no languages,” he said. “You just play hockey.”