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(Ed. Note: Welcome to the Puck Daddy 2013 summer project, the National Hockey League of Nations. We’ve recruited 30 writers/blogs to identify the best player in their favorite team’s history for each major nationality that creates the fabric of our beloved NHL: Canada, USA, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland and The Rest of The World. It’s their criteria, as long as they can justify it. Read, debate and enjoy! If you want to do so on Twitter, it's #NHLoN.)
Canada: Bobby Hull
Bobby Hull isn't just a perfect example of a hockey player, but also a Chicago Blackhawk, and above all, a Canadian.
Born in Ontario, Bobby didn't blow people out of the water with sheer talent, but when he coupled it with an incredible work ethic, a legend was born. Instead of lifting weights in the gym, he helped out on the farm, a workout like no other. The accolades were massive for such a humble man: 11-time all-star. Stanley Cup champion, 2-time MVP, Most Gentlemanly Player.
As a Blackhawk, Hull is considered the greatest of all time. Joining the team in 1957 at the age of 18, Hull began a 14- season journey that saw him become the league's preeminent superstar. He brought Chicago a Stanley Cup, led the league in scoring in just his third season and became the first player to score over 50 goals in a season. He left the Blackhawks as their leading scorer, and his mark will be forever left among the Blackhawks faithful as a statue of the legend was erected in 2011 outside the United Center.
Hull is among the best in the game's history. As the game changes, the legend of the 'Golden Jet' reminds us all of the way hockey used to be and just how exceptional of a player he was. –Skylar Peters
The Blackhawks may not have been known for their Finns, but they seem to have found a few Finnish net minders in recent history worth noting. Antti Niemi beats out forwards Christian and Tuomo Ruutu for top Finn in Hawks history.
His value became apparent when he took over as starter for Cristobal Huet. This change occurred after Huet got lit up by the Columbus Blue Jackets to the tune of 8-3. Niemi was undervalued at the time, and no one knew what his ceiling was as a player. Niemi may not have recorded the most mind boggling numbers in his brief stint as a Blackhawk, but he did backstop the Hawks to their first cup in 49 years. He ended that year with .912 SV% and a 2.25 GAA for the regular season, and .910 SV% and a 2.63 GAA for the playoffs.
Though, to be fair to Niemi, the Hawks were definitely not as defensively focused as they were for 2013.
One of his most impressive characteristics was his calm demeanor; he never let the pressure get to him. He ran with the opportunity as a starter, and when he struggled, he came out strong the next game.
Sure, his ending with the Hawks was a little sour, but he too was a victim of the cap purge. His continued success in San Jose is bittersweet, but he brought Chicago a long overdue cup. Niemi has solidified his position in Hawks history. –Joe Kremel
USA: Jeremy Roenick
How wonderful would it have been if Jeremy Roenick had spent his entire career in a Hawks sweater? We’ll never know the answer to that question, and it is very sad that it even has to be asked in the first place. Roenick burst onto the NHL scene in 1988 as a late season call-up for the Blackhawks.
It didn’t take long for “J.R” to start lighting the lamp at a regular pace, as well as play a young leadership role. Roenick’s meteoric rise represents a sort of changing of the guard for the Hawks. The players that represented the 1980s era for the Hawks were entering the twilights of their careers and being shipped out to other teams. For example, Denis Savard, who was traded to Montreal for Chris Chelios. The Hawks’ stars of the 1980s were on their way out while a bright looking new era appeared to be on the horizon in the 90s with players like Roenick leading the way.
However, things in the NHL hardly ever go the way of a Hollywood script. On Aug. 16, 1996, after progressing over 8 seasons to become an elite player in the NHL, Jeremy Roenick was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes for Alexei Zhamnov and Craig Mills. Sadly, Roenick was one the many victims of the Bill Wirtz/Bob Pulford “budget-play” that would bring about the Dark Ages of Chicago Blackhawks hockey.
Roenick will always be a headliner for the what-could-have-been era of the 90s for the Blackhawks. It’s very sad, and it is often difficult for Hawks fans to truly remember and enjoy Roenick’s eight quality years spent in an Indian head sweater without thinking about what SHOULD have been. –Brian Kinkade
Sweden: Niklas Hjalmarsson
Sweden has produced some great players over the past decades, and the Hawks have had the pleasure of working with some extremely dependable Swedes. Hjalmarsson is one of those dependable guys. I was very tempted to put Michael Nylander in here instead, but Hjalmarsson has brought Chicago two Cups with his consistent play. His willingness to block any shot, combined with his knack for making a smart play, helps push him to the top.
The argument against Hjammer has always been his lack of offensive production or his lack of physicality. He will never be the guy that wins the Norris, but that isn’t why he’s here. He is the counter balance to any puck moving defenseman, while still being mobile enough to be a threat/option at all times offensively. He knows and understands his role. It’s hard to find a player with that type of balance, but he manages that even while improving.
The importance of his style trumps the raw consistency that Nylander brings to the argument. Hjalmarsson brings strength, confidence, and consistency to the Hawks blue line.
We are starting to see Hjalmarsson resurrect some of his physicality as well. He wasn’t throwing many reckless hits; instead he played the body when it was appropriate. He rarely got burnt by opponents last season, and that is a trend that should continue to improve, further cementing his integral role on the Blackhawks team. –Joe Kremel
Russia: Johnny Gottselig
When someone says a particular Blackhawks player is ranked 30 for points in all-time franchise history and has two Stanley Cup Championships, you would think of the names Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, or Jonathan Toews. But this is not the case, for it is the greatest Russian player of all-time, Johnny Gottselig. We are going old school, like really old school, with our selection for Russia.
Gottselig was born in Russia in 1906 but moved to Canada very early in life. Gottselig played 17 seasons with the Blackhawks from 1928-1945. On the way, he became the 2nd Russian born player to play in the NHL. During his career, he scored 176 goals and 195 assists. Gottselig was a member of the 1934 Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks, and in 1938 he was the Captain of the Blackhawks when they hoisted the Cup for the 2nd time in the 30's. Gottselig's 589 games played still ranks 26th in all-time franchise history, and after his playing days were over, he coached the Blackhawks from 1944-1948.
After his coaching career came to an end, he became the Director of Public Relations, a title he still held during the 1961 season which ended with the Blackhawks 3rd Stanley Cup.
Alexei Zhamnov may be a more recognizable Russian name in Blackhawks history, but he was the player that came to Chicago in exchange for fan favorite Jeremy Roenick, and he never won a Stanley Cup. Gottselig was an active player for two championships and a member of the front office for a third which trumps all other Russian Blackhawks players. As such, he ranks as the greatest Russian to every wear the Blackhawks sweater. –Keith Shultz
Slovakia: Stan Mikita
Stan Mikita is one the greatest and dirtiest players from Slovakia. Mikita compiled what was arguably one of the best seasons in NHL history.
Mikita was a no-brainer for this decision. He put together one of the greatest seasons of all time, and he is the Blackhawks Franchise leader in points, goals, and assists. He was feared for his stick as well as his play making ability. He could send a tremendous shot into the back of the net or make a smooth pass to set up a nice goal. He could also give a nasty cross check or deliver a swift chop to the body whether the refs were looking or not.
Mid-career, his play style changed after being asked by his son why he spent so much time in the box. He went from being one of the dirtiest players to the cleanest players, which eventually won him the Lady Byng trophy. Not too many players can boast such a style change while maintaining elite numbers.
Mikita deserved to be on the Blackhawks team. In 1966-67, he won his third scoring title with a then NHL record 97 points. He also set the Blackhawks record with 62 assists and took home the Hart trophy as the league MVP. Mikita is an 8 time all-star and holds the Blackhawks franchise record in goals, assists, and points. He has 541 goals, 926 assists, and 1467 points in 1394 games. He had three seasons with over 100 penalty minutes and finished with 1270 career minutes. Mikita won the Art Ross Trophy in 1963-64, 1964-65, and 1966-67. He also won the Hart Memorial Trophy, Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 1966-67. In 1967-68, he would again win the Art Ross Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy, and Lady Byng Memorial Trophy. –Sean Fitzgerald
Czech Republic: Martin Havlat
Numbers shouldn’t be what defines Martin Havlat’s career with the Blackhawks, but if they could…(Insert Homer Simpson drooling sound effect). Marty Havlat may go down as an all but forgotten Hawk one day, and that’s really a shame.
Like many before him, he suffers from the “what could have been” ailment. This is largely due to the fact that Havlat’s tenure with the Hawks was mostly in the Dark Ages. Havlat was acquired from the Ottawa Senators via trade in July of 2006, and he didn’t take long to burst onto the scene. In his first game with the Blackhawks, Havlat recorded 2 goals and 2 assists in an 8-6 victory over the Nashville Predators.
Unfortunately, Havlat would not be able to play a full season, although he did make the All-Star team that season. At that time, the Hawks hadn’t had an offensive weapon like Havlat since Tony Amonte was a Hawk. The next season (2007-2008) saw the debut of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, and Havlat was once again hampered with injuries that limited him to just 35 games. The following season (2008-2009), Havlat lead the Hawks in scoring with 77 points in 81 games as he, and the new rising stars of the Blackhawks, lead the team to the Post-Season for the first time since 2002.
That would be Havlat’s final season with the Blackhawks as he and the team were unable to agree upon a new contract which then led the way for the signing of Marian Hossa. Marty Havlat may not be remembered as fondly as other Hawks, but it’s too bad. Havlat was the glimmer of hope that got Hawks fans through the late stages of the Dark Ages, and also played very well in the early stages of what will likely go down as the Golden Age of Chicago Blackhawks hockey. –Brian Kinkade
REST OF THE WORLD CATEGORY
England: Steve Thomas
Our all world player was born, of all places, in Stockport, England. From the start, Steve Thomas was not a fan favorite when he arrived in 1987 in place of two of our favorites, Al Secord and Ed Olczyk. But if you were to categorize Thomas, it would have to be said that he was a goal scorer.
Thomas scored 421 career regular season goals and 54 post-season goals in his career, and while he only played 334 of his career games in Chicago, he still had 110 goals in a Hawks sweater, along with 120 assists. Thomas ranks 40th in Blackhawks history for goals scored, and he is tied for 16th in team career hat tricks with 4 (1 of them was in fact four goals).
Thomas was traded during the 1992 season for Adam Creighton and Brent Sutter which was the Blackhawks last Stanley Cup Finals appearance before they won the 2010 Stanley Cup against the Philadelphia Flyers. Thomas returned to the Hawks in 2001-2003 in the twilight of his career.
Thomas never won a Stanley Cup in his career, but he's the best player to wear the Blackhawks sweater from England. –Keith Shultz
Read, debate and enjoy! If you want to do so on Twitter, it's #NHLoN
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