The scene on the ice today at Johnny’s IceHouse would’ve been happier under different circumstances.
Brian Campbell of the Florida Panthers, Troy Brouwer of the Washington Capitals and Ben Eager of the Edmonton Oilers were on hand for a practice organized by Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. In light of the lockout, Toews and other players across the league are taking the initiative and putting together informal skates for teammates for the duration.
Toews, along with Campbell and Patrick Sharp, ran the practice with Toews manning the chalkboard. During scrimmages, Steve Montador was seen dropping the puck for faceoffs. Jamal Mayers oversaw practice drills.
Along with Toews and Sharp, Blackhawks on the ice were Montador, Mayers, Dave Bolland, Marcus Kruger, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya, Sheldon Brookbank, Brandon Pirri and Ben Smith. Various prospects joined them to round out the practice. Absent from the skate was Patrick Kane, who does his offseason training in Buffalo with members of the Buffalo Sabres.
Eager, Brouwer and Campbell haven’t practiced with the Blackhawks since being traded from the team – for Eager, it was in the offseason after winning the Cup, and it had been a year for Campbell and Brouwer. Both were traded in the offseason last year.
One sight of significance: unlike the Ottawa Senators, who were ordered to turn in their practice jerseys, the Blackhawks were seen wearing their Indian head jerseys and Campbell was seen wearing his Panthers practice jersey. Although they were allowed to wear the jerseys, they were not allowed to use the locker rooms at the facility.
After practice, Toews, who wore a white NHLPA hat, told reporters that he had sent players an email telling them of the informal skate. He then joked that he would have a hard time collecting $10 from each player to cover the cost of ice time.
While the sight of the three former Blackhawks skating with their old team was exciting, it was also bittersweet. Fans know that this may be the only time they see such a thing happen. But for a while, in the midst of a bitter fight, it brought back great memories.