Verdict: Sharp, Saad happy to be home in Chicago [07\30\2017] (from Chicago Blackhawks.com)
Needing no introduction, Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad received one anyway at the Blackhawks’ 10th Annual Convention. During the Opening Ceremonies, both were accorded a rousing welcome.
A day later, the International Ballroom at the Hilton Chicago was standing room only for a panel discussion. “More people than used to be at some of our games when I first got here,” noted Sharp. During a break in the action, Sharp and Saad talked with chicagoblackhawks.com.
You were traded about a week apart after helping the Blackhawks win the 2015 Stanley Cup. Now about a week apart, you have returned. Any inkling this could happen?
Saad: None, zero. No rumors about a deal with Columbus. Nothing. I was home in Pittsburgh the morning of the NHL Draft at the United Center. I think I might have just finished a workout and I got a call from Jarmo Kekalainen, the general manager of the Blue Jackets. He told me I’d been traded back to the Blackhawks. It was pretty shocking. Then I got a call from Stan Bowman, saying he was happy to have me back.
I had signed a long-term contract with Columbus and was protected in the expansion draft for the new team in Las Vegas, so I figured I was still with the Blue Jackets. When I left Chicago, I kind of knew it would happen because of the salary cap. I didn’t think about coming back. Then this happened. Shocking.
Patrick, you were a free agent with the Dallas Stars. How many teams were you talking to?
Saad: Probably 30.
Sharp: No, maybe seven or eight. Then it came down to two or three. Then Stan got in touch. That was the end of it. I could have made more money elsewhere, but when I found out the Blackhawks were interested, that’s all that mattered. I was in Connecticut. I took the call, then went outside with my phone. My wife, Abby, followed me. While I was talking with Stan, she was beside me, jumping up down, saying, “Sign it! Sign it!”
She’s even more excited about coming back to the Blackhawks than I am, and I am plenty excited. I wanted to go to a place where I am wanted, and Chicago is a place we never wanted to leave. Like Saader, I knew I was going to leave in 2015. Stan said he had to move some money, and I thought he might be moving it to pay Saader. But he got traded before I went to Dallas. Now here we are. Blackhawks again.
What did you miss most about Chicago and the Blackhawks?
Sharp: First of all, I have nothing but good things to say about Dallas and the Stars’ organization. They gave me a ton a respect, lots of ice time, and everything there was first class. We won the Conference my first season there, but last year left a bad taste. Not only because we didn’t play well as a team, but I missed a bunch of games with injuries. Chicago, though, is where I spent 10 great years, won three Stanley Cups, played my best hockey and made lasting friendships.
We loved the city, the team, the fans. It was tough leaving here and, to be honest, I never got over leaving here. We kept our place and were renting it out. We’re not renting it out anymore. We’re moving back in. I missed the Cubs, too, going to Wrigley Field. I leave for two years and they win the World Series.
Saad: The Blackhawks are where I started. They drafted me, gave me my first chance in the NHL, and we won a Cup here. I grew up here as a hockey player. I was a kid. Everything was new. There’s a lot of history with the Blackhawks, an Original Six franchise, and there are still some guys who I played with, friends.
Like Sharpy [with Dallas], I enjoyed Columbus. Nice city, fans are supportive, and we had a terrific season last year. But the Blackhawks feel like home. Sold my place in Columbus in one day and now, as we’re doing this, my dad and fiancé are looking for a place in Chicago.
What does it mean to be returning with Sharp?
Saad: Well, we just got better looking. (Laugh.) He was always good to me when I came up as a rookie. He’s a leader and he was one of the veterans who helped me feel comfortable. Plus, look at him. What is he, 35? He’s still in great shape.
What about returning with Saad?
Sharp: He’s 24, but he’s really older than me, right? I mean, so mature. He was as a rookie. I remember when he first showed up in 2012, especially for our playoff series against the Coyotes.
We got beat, but I took one look at this guy, the way he played, the way he carried himself, all the skills he showed. He looked like a 10-year veteran. I thought to myself even then, “this kid belongs in the National Hockey League.”
Is Saad still the “Man-Child”?
Sharp: No. Now he is a “Man.”
Saad: Haven’t heard that “Man Child” thing since I left Chicago.
Brandon, how are you different now than then?
Sharp: He’s a lot richer.
Saad: (Laugh). I think I’m a better player. I’m more mature. I’m engaged, I’ve been through trades, I played with another organization, I’ve seen more and experienced more. I tried never to be like a young punk, showing up as a rookie and acting like I knew everything. I’m still the same way, which is why my first roommate, Andrew Shaw, got all over me.
I acted like an old man, spending too much time in the bathroom, wearing a bathrobe when we were in the hotel. He beat me up, even when he liked what I was doing, but I enjoyed being around him and he’s still one of my best friends. I’m going to his wedding later this summer.
Sharp: I’m in even better shape than when I left the Blackhawks. Whether that translates, I don’t know. I realize that some people are saying, well, he’s past his prime, his best days are gone, he’s lost a step. But as much as I enjoy being received the way I’ve been, by the fans and the organization, I’m not coming here to renew acquaintances or go to our favorite restaurants. I am coming here to play, and contribute. Whatever they want me to do.
I was on three Cup teams here, and I played three different positions. Center, right wing, left wing. Whatever it takes. Like I said, I did not feel good about last year in Dallas. I talked with Soupy (Brian Campbell) off and on last year when he returned to Chicago. He said he absolutely made the right move. I feel the same way.
What makes Chicago and the Blackhawks special?
Sharp: They got knocked out in the first round the last two years, but this is still a destination for players throughout the league. The Blackhawks can’t pay more because of the cap, the weather can be tough, but it’s still the place to play. I could feel it in Dallas.
Whenever we played the Blackhawks, it felt like a big game. In the United Center, where it’s always full, but also in our building, even though it was half red and half green in the stands with all the Blackhawk fans.
My first game back here with Dallas, they put a video tribute up there. Emotional. I got a video of the video. Playing against the Blackhawks is not like playing against any other team. Sure was tough for me, anyway, because I have so many friends after ten years with them. But it’s just the way things work around here. Not any specifics. Just the details, if you know what I mean. The way you are treated if you are a Blackhawk is just different.
When Stan had to deal me, he wanted me to go to a place where I would be happy. And I was in Dallas. He didn’t have to do that. Details.
Saad: I can’t say it any better. It’s a different team and has been every year because of the cap. But the first guy I heard from after being traded back here was Tazer (Jonathan Toews). I don’t know if I’ll be back on a line with him. Who wouldn’t want to play with him?
And there’s still a few of the guys who won the Cup in 2015. I was in Pittsburgh when the Penguins had their victory parade.
We had the third most points in the East, but got beat by them in the first round. I can’t knock them. It’s the Penguins who got me interested in hockey when I was just a kid. But it would be nice to do that again here in Chicago. And Sharpy is right about how the Blackhawks, besides wanting to win it all every year, handle the little things. The details. I feel very fortunate. Everything in perspective. My dad, George, still has a sister in Syria.
Patrick, you and Brandon both spent two years in huge football markets. Cowboys in Dallas, Ohio State in Columbus. When you see thousands of people wearing Blackhawk sweaters around Chicago in the middle of July, is there any doubt…
Sharp: Seabs (Brent Seabrook) called when I was traded back here, and he said, “You know, Sharpy, there are great schools in the Lakeview area.” Always thinking like a leader. But, whoa. I told him I was here for ten years. And they were amazing years. My first game here after I got traded from Philadelphia, they announced a crowd of 10,000, but it was more like 7,000.
One of our first promotions, Duncs (Duncan Keith) and I went to a train station in our jerseys giving out free tickets to games. People looked at us. “Leave us alone. Go away.”
I had a buddy from back home in Canada working here and I got him tickets. He had an entire section to himself. A big guy, he stretched his arms around the seats next to him and draped his legs over the seat in front of him.
Where is he now?
Sharp: He’s not working in Chicago anymore. But if he comes back for a game and asks for tickets, he’s not going to have a section to himself.