Alex Stalock’s second concussion is concerning, disheartening for Blackhawks

Stalock’s stellar goaltending and fun-loving personality were missed for seven weeks after his first concussion, and his terrible recent health luck continued with a collision in practice Monday.

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Blackhawks goalie Alex Stalock.

Blackhawks goalie Alex Stalock has reentered concussion protocol after a collision in practice Monday.

AP Photo/Erin Hooley

At the Blackhawks’ soccer event with iconic goalie Petr Cech earlier this month, veteran NHL goaltender Alex Stalock was unquestionably the worst player of the bunch, blasting almost every kick over the net.

He also was the life of the party. He joked around with the Hawks teammates he knew well, but just as much with Cech and team employees he didn’t know at all.

That’s the kind of personality Stalock is, and the Hawks love it. In a season with few reasons for happiness, his naturally unrestrained joy and humor have made a big difference in the locker room.

“He’s a guy that if you want a laugh out of, you just ask him a question, and you’re bound to be laughing a couple seconds later,” veteran winger Patrick Kane said recently. “He has been great.”

Stalock has been great on the ice, too. His 6-6-1 record, .918 save percentage and plus-9.5 goals saved above average (GSAA) are extremely impressive in context. Entering Tuesday, all other Hawks goalies combined were 5-20-3 with an .885 save percentage and minus-9.5 GSAA.

So, for those reasons, the news Tuesday that Stalock had entered concussion protocol for the second time this season was equal parts concerning and demoralizing.

The 35-year-old Minnesotan has dealt with terrible health luck for years now. Just when he established his reputation as a stellar backup and sometimes even the “1B” goalie for the Wild from 2017 to 2020, his career was nearly ended by myocarditis, a COVID-connected heart condition. It kept him out of the NHL for almost two full seasons.

And just when he’d rejuvenated his career and become arguably the Hawks’ “1A” goalie this season, the concussion issues — the first in his lifetime — popped up.

Stalock missed a month and a half after suffering the initial head injury Nov. 1 during a collision with Islanders forward Casey Cizikas. He returned just before Christmas and made five starts, then missed a couple of games last week with an illness before entering Saturday’s game against the Kraken in relief of Petr Mrazek.

On Monday, minutes into his first full practice since recovering from the illness, an unintentional collision with defenseman Jarred Tinordi knocked him down hard. Stalock bounced right back up and finished practice, but evidently felt his concussion symptoms return later.

Hawks coach Luke Richardson said Stalock would be checked out closely by doctors Tuesday night.

“You never know how things react with people, but we’re just going to take precaution and . . . hopefully it settles down quicker than last time,” Richardson said.

Stalock struggled with recurring setbacks in November that sometimes left him unable to get off his couch. He clearly worried about the potential long-term implications of the concussion — something not every NHL player does.

“The internet is good for some stuff, but there’s some stuff it’s not great for, and concussions [are] one not-ideal thing to go diving into,” he said Dec. 20. “You end up [reading] some stuff you probably don’t want to read.

“Anybody with a concussion nowadays obviously knows what can happen and the studies that have been out. Medically, we take it day by day.”

How he fares this time might not be known for a while. The Hawks, though, will probably fare poorly. With Arvid Soderblom still sidelined by a groin injury in Rockford, their current goaltending duo is Mrazek and prospect Jaxson Stauber, who has never played an NHL game.

Life also could be harder for the Hawks’ defensemen without Stalock’s puck-handling and passing abilities, which sometimes give him the appearance of a soccer-style “sweeper keeper,” even if his actual soccer skills are subpar.

Not having Stalock’s larger-than-life personality brightening up the room is likely to be deflating as well.

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