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Fighting days behind him, Sheldon Brookbank finds his way back to Blackhawks

Sheldon Brookbank playing for the Blackhawks in 2013. I Scott Stewart/Sun-Times

Former Blackhawks defenseman Sheldon Brookbank was never the type of player who would allow an opponent to bully one of his teammates. On more than 40 occasions in his eight-season NHL career, Brookbank took matters into his own hands and dropped his gloves. 

But Brookbank’s fighting days are over now that he’s behind the bench. And that has been hard for Brookbank to accept at times.

“Sometimes when guys are on the ice or acting up, you don’t have a hand in it anymore,” he said Saturday. “You get a little fired up on the bench just watching guys stick guys on your team, and it’s out of your hands.”

Brookbank, who played his final two seasons with the Hawks and helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2013, was promoted from Rockford to the Hawks to assist coach Jeremy Colliton.

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The move had been planned all along, according to Colliton, but the Hawks waited because they wanted to stabilize the IceHogs before making another change to their coaching staff.

Also previously planned was interim assistant Barry Smith’s return to his role as director of player evaluation, which will happen at some point.

Brookbank, who helped Colliton lead Rockford to its first berth in the AHL Western Conference finals last season, believes one of his strengths is his ability to communicate with players.

“The job for assistant coaches is to be this sort of in-between for the coaching staff and the players,” said Brookbank, who was teammates with seven current Hawks. “I have a leg up in that sense, that I know some of these guys already.”