David Gust on NHL call-up and contract with Blackhawks: 'Dream come true'

Gust on NHL call-up and contract with Hawks: 'Dream come true' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

SAN JOSE — David Gust nearly walked away from hockey at the end of last season. He was 28 years old at the time, coming off a Calder Cup Championship with the Chicago Wolves and had yet to play in the NHL. He saw the writing on the wall.

Or so he thought.

Gust, an Orland Park native, decided he would give it one more shot by signing with the Blackhawks organization since it allowed him to stay in his hometown. It was a one-year deal with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs with the opportunity to turn it into an NHL contract.

"At the beginning of the year, when contract talks [were happening], they said if you do your part, we'll do the best we can to see if we can move you to an NHL deal," Gust said. "They just said to keep your path and keep doing the little things that you're doing, we're happy with the way you're progressing and we'll see what happens near the trade deadline."

On Monday, the day before he turned 29 years old, Gust's agent called to tell him that the Blackhawks were signing him to a two-year NHL contract through the end of the 2023-24 season with a cap hit of 762,500. He then surprised his parents with the news at his birthday dinner.

Gust went from mentally preparing to move on to the next chapter of his life to signing a contract with his hometown Blackhawks. He was actually in attendance for the Stanley Cup clincher against Tampa Bay in 2015 at the United Center.

"It's kind of a dream come true," Gust said. "It's so cool. I thought that ship kind of sailed a couple years ago, just with getting older and no NHL deals really there. Hearing this news, it was pretty emotional for me and my wife."

Gust hit the ice with the Blackhawks on Friday in San Jose, which was a rare "dress and drive" practice, meaning the team suited up in full gear at the arena, then took a bus to the practice facility before hopping back on the bus to go back to the arena to change.

Blackhawks assistant coach Derek King helped him feel at home by cracking a joke.

"Kinger was joking with him when we were getting on the bus half-dressed, 'Hey, welcome to the NHL, this is what we do here. If you have any complaints, talk to your agent,'" Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson laughed. "It was pretty funny. Complete Kinger. It put a smile on his face, make him feel a little comfortable and at ease."

Gust has earned both the NHL contract and the call-up. He's tied for fourth among all AHL skaters with 24 goals and is tied for eighth with 50 points in 51 games.

Gust is also a glue guy. In a game on Feb. 10 against the Milwaukee Admirals, goaltender Yaroslav Askarov celebrated a shootout victory over the IceHogs by bench-pressing the crossbar of the net. The two teams played each other the next night, and it was Gust who was chirping Askarov practically every shift.

"He does whatever he has to for the team," Richardson said. "He's done everything he can to get here. It's great to see a guy like that get the opportunity."

Gust isn't expected to make his NHL debut on Saturday against the Sharks because they want him to get in a few practices, but the plan is for him to draw into the lineup at some point soon. And what a feeling that will be for him.

"Given the chance just to even put this jersey on in a preseason game was something I looked forward to do," Gust said. "I figured, 'Hey, why not, and see where it goes?' I'm happy I stuck with it."

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