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Chicago Blackhawks Tribute To Niklas Hjalmarsson, Tried And True

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Nov 13, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Gustav Forsling (42) celebrates scoring a goal with defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) during the first period against the Montreal Canadiens at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 13, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Gustav Forsling (42) celebrates scoring a goal with defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) during the first period against the Montreal Canadiens at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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The news that longtime Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson had been traded Friday hit Chicago like a hard slapshot, one similar to the 1,186 shots Hjalmarsson blocked protecting his team over the past 10 years

What was supposed to be a showcase and celebration of the city of Chicago at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft quickly turned emotional Friday.  Earlier in the week, Blackhawks fans learned they would be without forward Marian Hossa next season and beyond due to a severe skin allergey.

Then Friday afternoon, the Blackhawks traded defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes, followed by another trade sending forward Artemi Panarin to Columbus in exchange for former Blackhawk forward Brandon Saad.  Both trades happened within an hour of each other, leaving ‘Hawks fans in a flurry of emotions.

That night at the draft, the Blackhawks organization put on a smile for the thousands in attendance, but sadness and uncertainly filled the air.  Coach Joel Quennville wasn’t in the building, Jonathan Toews was less than enthused when asked about Friday’s trades, and fans were confused whether to be excited about the return of Saad or the improbable departure of Hjalmarsson.

One thing was certain though — Hjalmarsson had the utmost respect from his peers because he represented a lot of what it means to be a Blackhawk.

A look back at Hjalmarsson’s tenure

Hammer was never the best Blackhawks defenseman and he probably never would be.  He played second-line minutes, but was trusted with the toughest defensive assignments on a nightly basis.

He specialized in smart defensive play and was known for sacrificing his body for the good of the team.

Some people say you have to be a little crazy to play hockey, and they’re probably right. Hjalmarsson would routinely block shots that were up to 100 mph that nobody else would dare stand in front of, and get back in the game without missing a shift.

Sitting at home, we would cringe and look away after watching the grimacing emotion in Hjalmarsson’s face as he limped his way back to the bench after sliding in front of a hard shot.  But in Hammer’s mind, his blocked shot was one less puck the ‘Hawks goalie had to stop.

The last few weeks, beat writers, bloggers and fans debated how general manager Stan Bowman would make the changes he vowed to make after the Blackhawks were swept out of the first round of this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. But nobody thought Hjalmarsson would be a part of those plans.

Hjalmarsson was on a very reasonable contract for the next two years and most thought it would be impossible for the Blackhawks to part ways with the three-time Stanley Cup champion, but it happened.

As much as the NHL is a business, emotion still plays a major part in the Blackhawks community.  We have fallen in love with these players who have provided us with joy and excitement the last decade, so it hurts when we have to part ways with them.  We screamed, we shouted, we laughed and we cried in the process of achieving that one goal.

That being said, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, Niklas Hjalmarsson, instead of you leaving our beloved city as a business transaction.  For every time that you let Patrick Kane, Toews and Duncan Keith take the spotlight, I’d like to shine it upon you for this one last moment.

You are the reason why we can watch the Blackhawks on TV now.

You are the reason why the Blackhawks are the model franchise.

You are the reason why the Blackhawks won three Stanley Cups this decade.

You are the reason why our kids want to play hockey.

You are the reason why we expect the Blackhawks to win every game.

You are the reason why we love hockey.

Next: The Blackhawks Are A Brand New Team

Some people say the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in all of sports.  You won it three times in six years.  You gave us everything you had every night, and we will be forever grateful for it.  There have been other players who we’ve been forced to move on from, but this one seems like it will be particularity hard to get over.

Thank you Mr. Hjalmarsson, it has been a pleasure to watch you grow up and make this city proud.

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