A decision by the Chicago Bears on Sunday was noteworthy for the Chicago Blackhawks as well
It may have made sense from a playing football standpoint, but the Chicago Bears did something Sunday that stunned many fans: They released kicker Robbie Gould. He had been with the team the last 11 seasons and was the last connection to the 2007 Super Bowl club.
Quarterback Jay Cutler is now the longest-tenured Bear. And speaking of tenure, Gould’s departure from the Windy City means something for the Chicago Blackhawks as well.
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So that’s pretty impressive. And also crazy to think about. The Blackhawks have seen so much success in their current era, but they’ve also seen so much roster turnover.
That, of course, has hardly applied to the core. You could’ve considered Patrick Sharp part of the core, but beyond him, it’s stayed pretty well intact while Joel Quenneville has been in charge of the Blackhawks.
Let’s talk debuts
Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook both debuted four days prior to Gould’s first action with the Bears, on Oct. 5. Keith and Seabrook were part of an opening-night Blackhawks roster that, upon first glance, now includes no other active NHLers. Not surprisingly, the team lost 5-3 to Anaheim.
Patrick Kane would make his Blackhawks and NHL debut Oct. 4, 2007, against the Minnesota Wild. Kane had no points, and neither did any of the other Blackhawks — they lost 1-0 on the road.
Jonathan Toews would join the ranks two games later, having a memorable debut against San Jose. He scored on his first NHL shot to push the Blackhawks ahead 1-0 on Oct 10, 2007. Unfortunately, it’d be the team’s only goal in a 2-1 defeat.
Niklas Hjalmarsson‘s debut would come later in the 2007-08 campaign, as he first took the ice in an Indian Head on Feb. 28, 2008. For a guy who has become the defensive defenseman to end them all, Hjalmarsson’s first game saw some horrid defense. The Blackhawks lost 7-4 to the Dallas Stars, with future teammate Brad Richards notching five assists for the Stars.
What about the others?
It’s not a surprise at this point that five Blackhawks top the longest-tenured Chicago athletes list. The Bears have gone through a ton of tumult in recent seasons, with Cutler’s first Bears action in 2009 giving him the team lead in that category.
The Cubs, White Sox and Bulls have gone through so many attempted rebuilds that there’s no way any players could have stuck around as long as the above five Blackhawks. Though maybe the Cubs can add some guys to the list down the road.
An additional note to Chicago tenure and Blackhawks athletes:
The “newer” three
Now that’s a little more wild. Marian Hossa being on that list isn’t surprising, though. He jumped from Pittsburgh in the 2009 offseason to sign a long-term deal with the Blackhawks. Hossa made his team debut in Nov. 25 of that year, tallying two goals in a 7-2 win over the Sharks.
That might be true for Kruger, who made his debut against Florida on March 23, 2011 (a 4-0 Blackhawks win). But Crow actually saw his first action with the Blackhawks all the way back in 2006.
On Jan. 22, 2006, Crow relieved Adam Munro and made seven saves in a 3-2 Wild win (Munro suffered the loss, not Crow). So that would push Crow into third place on the current longest-tenured Chicago athletes list. But the guess here is his current spot in based on when he became a full-time starter, which would be at the outset of the 2010-11 regular season.
Still, it’s wild to think about all the Blackhawks who are now among the longest-tenured pro athletes in Chicago. It’s a testament to the team’s success, as well as GM Stan Bowman’s ability to keep important guys around long-term.