Healthy and rejuvenated, Andrew Shaw is once again bringing life to the Blackhawks
After 14 months away from hockey following his most recent of many concussions, Shaw has returned to the team with a new attitude and high spirits.
Practicing with the Blackhawks for the first time since his concussion 14 months ago, Andrew Shaw’s infectious, playful attitude is back in full force.
But he’s no longer so happy-go-lucky when it comes to his head.
The first step was adding a visor to his helmet for the first time in his NHL career. Shaw, skating on the de facto second line with Pius Suter and Dominik Kubalik in training camp, has embraced the extra bit of protection.
“My nose has been broken a few times,” the 29-year-old forward said about the visor Wednesday. “I’ve had enough cuts on my face. I’m pretty as it is right now; I don’t want to make that any worse. I think it’s both precautionary and just sick of bleeding everywhere.”
The second step will take place once the season begins next week.
Shaw spent much of last few months working with Chicago-based skills coach Brian Keane on techniques that will allow him to retain his gritty playing style but also better protect himself.
“I can’t play scared. If I play scared, I’m just going to end up putting myself in vulnerable positions,” he said. “I worked with Brian Keane on scanning and making sure I know where everybody is and making sure my head’s up and just being more confident with the puck. That’s been going pretty well for me.”
Shaw has missed 108 games in the last four seasons with the Canadiens and Hawks because of injuries, mostly concussions. His future mental health and the longevity of his career both depend on ending that trend starting immediately.
That necessity became brutally apparent after Shaw suffered his latest of many concussions on Nov. 30, 2019, eventually ending his 2019-20 season. The ensuing recovery led him to some dark, soul-searching times.
“Feeling down and sore and in pain and having headaches, it’s tough to love the game at that point,” he said.
In the end, though, Shaw discovered a side of himself that he had lost sight of during his hockey tribulations.
“To be able to spend that time with my family helped me push through this,” he said. “It let me see life without hockey and knowing that if anything happened to me, injury-wise, I’m good. I’m OK without hockey. I’ll survive.”
Shaw’s first son, Dax, was born in January. His daughter, Andy, turned 2 in June. Shaw purchased a smoker grill over the summer and became an avid chef, cooking nearly every meal for his family.
In the gym, Shaw took up yoga and Pilates, helping further clear his head. He rehabbed the many other parts of his body — “back, shoulders, neck, legs, hips, everything,” he said. He conferred with many doctors. He took the summer playoffs off to heal even more.
“It was nice to reset, start over, get my posture to where it needs to be and work on my diet,” he said. “I had so much time at home with my wife and kids. It was a nice breath of fresh air.”
Eventually he made the decision to continue with the sport.
He returned to Chicago six weeks before camp to test himself with some “intense” skates. He set up Zoom meetings with coach Jeremy Colliton to learn about the schematic and personnel changes he had missed and to define his role moving forward.
And when Shaw officially took the ice Monday, visor and all, it brought a smile to Colliton’s face.
“He seems to be very confident in his health, and he’s put a lot of work in off and on the ice to prepare,” Colliton said. “That just makes me so happy. I’m happy for him. I’m proud of him.
“He brings so much energy to our team, so much life, and he plays hard. That’s what’s in his DNA, and that’s a great influence on everyone who walks in this building.”