Stanley Cup champs enjoy Wolves’ reunion, eye another championship

Photo at Top: The 2014-2015 Chicago Wolves' roster includes four members of the 2010 Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. From left to right, Adam Burish, Ben Eager, Colin Fraser and Brent Sopel. (Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves).

By Sara Romano

Adam Burish had a mischievous grin on his face when he talked about the days following the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup victory in 2010.

“I’ll always remember that night, and some of the following nights,” he said. “They all kind of blur together. The night we won … coming back to Chicago … the parade. …”

Upon further prompting, Burish continued his reminiscing aloud, recalling the team’s arrival back into Chicago after clinching the Cup.

“We came right back to the airport [that night],” he said. “There were fire trucks and they had the hoses going and the plane sort of drove through the hoses. There were people everywhere. They had a separate plane for our families, so we saw them right away.

“The night just kind of went from there and turned into the morning and turned into the next day and the next day.”

The former Hawks forward became the latest member of the Stanley Cup champion team to join the Wolves when he was acquired on loan from the San Jose Sharks last month, joining Ben Eager, Colin Fraser and Brent Sopel on the roster.

Though all four said they harbor dreams of a return to the NHL and a shot at another Stanley Cup, for now the group is enjoying its reunion and the chance to play together once again.

Getting the gang back together

It all started with Sopel, who was living in Chicago and skated with the Wolves over the summer to stay in shape. General manager Wendell Young saw enough left in the 38-year-old defenseman to invite him to training camp. Sopel impressed during camp, and Young offered him a spot on the roster.

“I want to play this game as long as I can,” said Sopel, also a Sports Sunday contributor for NBC-Ch. 5 . “Once you stop playing, you can never go back and play again. It’s one day at a time.”

Fraser, a 30-year-old center, signed a free-agent deal with the St. Louis Blues in the offseason and has spent the majority of the season with the Wolves after being sidelined with an upper-body injury.

Eager, Fraser’s 31-year-old former linemate, joined the team in mid-December, signed fresh off a brief stint in the Russian professional hockey league.

“[Burish, Eager and I] kind of all play a similar game,” Fraser said. “We played together before and we know kind of what to expect from each other.”

In Burish’s first game with the Wolves, a Jan. 16 contest against the Lake Erie Monsters, the trio played on a line together once again in a 5-1 Chicago loss.

Former Hawks
Former Blackhawks now playing for the AHL Chicago Wolves. (Sara Romano/Medill).


Veteran presence

Young insisted that signing four former Blackhawks had nothing to do with selling tickets.

“I’m not just signing them because they are ex-Hawks,” Young said. “That’s the last thing I do. I need to put a team together, and that’s what they bring to the table. It’s not my job to sell tickets. It’s my job to put a good team on the ice.”

Anderson echoed that sentiment.

“Seriously, it was never a plan,” he said. “We are trying to find arguably the best players out there, and they happen to be Hawks.”

Whether a coincidence or not, there is no denying that the recognizable names help boost the popularity of the AHL franchise. The winning mentality and NHL experience they bring with them don’t hurt either.

“It’s always been our philosophy to have some older guys with NHL experience, whether they come from the Hawks or not,” Anderson explained. “We like to have older guys around, players who have won, guys who have excelled at what they do.”

The former Hawks prefer to lead by example, but said they are happy to share any knowledge or advice they might have with the Wolves’ younger players.

Burish recalled pestering NHL veteran Marty LaPointe for stories about winning the Stanley Cup in Detroit including what LaPointe drank from the Cup.

“For me, that motivated me and got me excited,” he said. “For other guys, I would assume it does the same. Hearing those things, stories about guys winning a Cup, and the things that come with it. The bonds and friendships that come with winning a championship — I think that can be motivating to other guys in the room.”

Sopel shared the view that hearing about the highs and lows of what it takes to win a championship can be beneficial to young prospects.

“The more winners you have in your room, the better it is,” he said, “because they’ve been there, they know what it takes to win. [We are] trying to bring our knowledge to that dressing room and our experiences, and pass it along to these kids.

Wolves All-Star Ty Rattie, a 22-year-old St. Louis Blues prospect said sharing a locker room with the four has been “unbelievable.”

“They’ve won the Stanley Cup,” Rattie said. “They’ve been where everyone here wants to be … They’ve been big for our team and they are a huge help for me”.

Not done yet

Although the veteran players are glad for a chance to reminisce about their championship season, they said they are by no means content to call it a career or accept an advising role.

They all admitted that the opportunity to reunite with former teammates was too good to pass up.

“To be honest, it’s just fun to be back in the locker room with them again,” Burish said. “When you win a championship, there is a special bond that everyone says [happens], and its true. It’s fun to be on the ice together too, but for me it’s just being around them everyday.”

While they recall the good times and the memories that came from the 2010 season, all four have their eyes on another championship.

“No matter what level you are playing in, you want to win,” Sopel said.

As the Wolves eye a Calder Cup this season, the veteran foursome will certainly be an asset. But that still is not the ultimate goal.

“Even us, being older, we are all trying to make the NHL” Fraser said. “The dream never really ends.”

Photo at Top: The 2014-2015 Chicago Wolves’ roster includes four members of the 2010 Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. From left to right, Adam Burish, Ben Eager, Colin Fraser and Brent Sopel. (Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves).