Goalie Collin Delia’s long Blackhawks journey leads to special moment: beating hometown Kings
Delia — a native of Rancho Cucamonga, California — made 43 saves Thursday as the Hawks won 4-3 in a shootout.
LOS ANGELES — Blackhawks goalie Collin Delia was a 17-year-old playing AAA junior hockey when the Kings faced the Devils in the Stanley Cup Final in 2012.
Delia sat in the stands at Staples Center that June, wearing a red Martin Brodeur jersey and watching a battle between star goalies Brodeur and Jonathan Quick. It was a relatively quick drive, after all, just 35 miles down I-10 from his hometown of Rancho Cucamonga, California.
Ten years later, the iconic sign outside read Crypto.com Arena, the stands weren’t nearly as packed and the stakes weren’t as high, but Delia was back inside the home of the Kings on Thursday. This time, however, he was on the ice.
And, in storybook fashion, Delia stole the show. He made 43 saves over 65 minutes and stopped three more shootout attempts in the Hawks’ 4-3 victory.
‘‘It’s hard to put it into words,’’ Delia said afterward, choking up a bit more than he could hide. ‘‘[It’s] just really cool to be from this area, to grow up watching the Kings and Ducks — especially Jonathan Quick — and to get to compete with some really good company and come out victorious. [It was] definitely a memorable experience.’’
Delia’s dad and stepmom were in attendance, having made the drive themselves this time. They still were wearing red jerseys, but this time it was for the Hawks.
The timing worked out perfectly. Buried beneath Marc-Andre Fleury and Kevin Lankinen on the depth chart for most of the season, Delia has played decently in the American Hockey League — going 11-9-2 with a .905 save percentage for Rockford — but had seen only 28 minutes of NHL action entering this week.
The trade of Fleury to the Wild on Monday opened the door for his call-up, however, and the Hawks’ customary back-to-back in Southern California meant Delia made only his seventh NHL start in the last three-plus years Thursday.
‘‘It’s like a movie, right?’’ interim coach Derek King said. ‘‘It’s like all these movies you see about athletes, [showing] where they started and . . . where they ended up.
‘‘He has had some mountains to climb. I’m sure he’s still going to have some mountains or bumps in the road. [It has been a tough] situation with the goalies this year. All of a sudden, he’s the guy getting called up. Obviously, [Lankinen] is our guy. But [Delia] fills in . . . and he puts in a performance like that. That’s pretty solid.’’
Delia was seeing the puck cleanly from the opening faceoff and never lost his composure, even though the Kings battled back from three one-goal deficits. He made six saves on Arthur Kaliyev, four on Anze Kopitar and three on Adrian Kempe, then stood tall in his first career NHL shootout.
After wing Alex DeBrincat won the shootout on the Hawks’ third attempt, the team mobbed Delia, universally aware of how significant the game was to him.
‘‘It’s nice to get some shots early on,’’ Delia said. ‘‘The guys did a great job of letting me see pucks . . . and clearing second opportunities. They were great.’’
Delia’s future, however, remains uncertain. The Hawks’ remaining schedule lends itself to only two more obvious starting opportunities — in the two remaining back-to-backs — and he’ll be a 27-year-old unrestricted free agent this summer. A return to the Hawks’ organization isn’t implausible, but it isn’t exactly likely, either.
But that surely wasn’t on his mind Thursday, as he made a memory that will last well beyond his pro career.
‘‘You could see his smile when he came out of here,’’ King said. ‘‘You know how happy he is.’’