Compton becomes United Center East for Blackhawks
Isaac Lorton | Sunday, September 21, 2014
Former Irish defenseman Stephen Johns returned to campus with the Blackhawks for a weekend of practice and festivities.
For the second straight year, the Blackhawks opened their training camp at Compton Family Ice Arena with an exclusive practice for faculty, staff and students of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross on Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, they played for the general public and sold out both days.Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw said the Blackhawks appreciated Notre Dame’s hospitality and enjoyed the trip.
“[The visit to Notre Dame] was great,” Shaw said. “It has been a good experience. … [Notre Dame] treat[s] us well here and [has] a great facility. Fans coming out and cheering us on for these training camp games is huge.”
Three squads — red, white and black — took to the ice for two two-period exhibition games.
A mix of veterans and rookies made up each squad.
Johns played for the white team, which won its first match, 5-2, over the black team and lost its second match to red, 4-0.Johns mainly skated alongside 14-year NHL veteran defenseman Michal Rozsival and often was on the ice with captain and center Jonathan Toews and alternate captain and left wing Patrick Sharp.
“I got my first training camp in the books — that was good,” Johns said. “My overall performance was pretty good. I felt comfortable.”
Johns said he felt he easily integrated into the Blackhawk community.
“Last year when I went from [Notre Dame] to Rockford, it was smooth,” Johns said. “The guys brought me in like I was part of the team right away. In my opinion, it wasn’t a huge jump from college to Rockford, but obviously, it has been a bigger jump to here [with the Blackhawks]. I just have to keep on working on my game.”As the Blackhawks return to the United Center in Chicago for the Training Camp Festival tonight, Shaw said the team is prepared for the season.
“We accomplished a lot,” Sharp said. “[The coaches] are happy with our fitness and our on-ice play and how we have been playing here.”
Beyond their play, the Blackhawks got involved in the community and sought out activities around campus, Shaw said. The Blackhawks visited the Robinson Learning Center on Friday and played video games with students on campus Friday and Saturday.
“Me and Bicksie [left wing Bryan Bickell] went and played Mario Kart against some of the students here,” Shaw said. “I won, but it was the new one, so Bicksie wasn’t too good at it.”
Shaw said it is important that the Blackhawks show appreciation to all of their fans by getting involved in the community.
“It’s always nice to give back,” Shaw said. “The number of fans who are here in the greater Chicago area, it’s huge. Any chance we have to give back to them, it’s awesome.”
The Blackhawks came on a football bye weekend, but next year’s visit may consist of more activities, Shaw said.
“Next year they are trying to plan us being back here for a football game, and I have heard a lot of good things, so I am excited for that,” Shaw said.