WASHINGTON, DC – As you enter the Chicago Blackhawks’ dressing room at Nationals Park, the first locker stall is unoccupied.
In body, if not in spirit.
The stall belongs to Clint Reif, the team’s assistant equipment manager who died on Dec. 21. A Blackhawks Winter Classic jersey hangs under his nameplate, a solemn reminder that his passing continues to reverberate for this tightknit team.
The tribute was something the Blackhawks wanted to do for the Classic in Washington; according to the team, Reif doesn’t have a dedicated stall in Chicago’s home locker room.
“He passed away but it’s not like we’re going to forget about him in this locker room. If we can do something little like create a stall in his name or put a ‘CR’ on his helmet, it goes a long way in his remembrance,” said winger Patrick Kane.
The Blackhawks wear ‘CR’ stickers on their helmets. So will the Washington Capitals during the Jan. 1 Winter Classic, in a tribute arranged by their coach Barry Trotz and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.
"We certainly appreciate the consideration and thinking of Clint [Reif] in a real tough time," said Quenneville.
“It shows a lot of respect,” said Kane. “I think that’s how close hockey families are these days. You can play the Capitals tomorrow, be mad at them on the ice, and then see them right after the game and be buddies."
Reif's death stunned the Blackhawks, who won an emotional game against the Maple Leafs after learning about his passing that morning. Toxicology results on his death are due back next week, according to the Daily Herald.