- Craig Custance
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BOSTON -- Michal Rozsival can always sleep before a game. It’s the same routine all players have. Morning skate, team meal and a quick nap.
But even at 34 years old and a long way from breaking into the league in 1999, there are still surprises. Instead of sleeping, Rozsival spent Monday afternoon in his hotel room, staring at the ceiling.
Thoughts of what it might feel like to raise the Stanley Cup later that night crept into his head. Then he immediately tried to erase it.
"I didn’t want to get too ahead of myself," he said.
It was just so close to finally happening that it was impossible not to dream. Rozsival and Michal Handzus are two key veteran contributors to the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup win, and they put in the most mileage before finally getting to hockey’s peak.
Rozsival has played 783 career regular season games and 74 playoff games before finally winning it all on Monday. For Handzus, it’s been even longer. He broke in with the Blues in 1998-99 and is closing in on 1,000 regular-season games, currently having played 950.
Handzus has had playoff runs in the past with the Blues and Flyers, but nothing like this.
Hockey players are as superstitious as they come, and in the time leading up to Game 6, the Blackhawks were careful not to talk too much about winning the Cup. They knew beating the Bruins one last time would be the hardest win of their season.
But on Monday morning, captain Jonathan Toews allowed a quick meeting with Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith to determine which player after Toews would be handed the Stanley Cup should the Hawks end Boston’s season that night. It was a quick conversation.
Handzus got the nod and the Cup first after the captain.
"You want to win for guys like that, that have been in the league a long time," Toews said. "They’ll do anything for their teammates. They’ll do anything for the team. Those are guys you want in your group."
They were both quietly effective additions for general manager Stan Bowman. Rozsival lasted all summer long in free agency before finally signing with the Blackhawks in September. In a time when general managers wildly overspend, it might have been the best $2 million spent all summer.
And while other teams made much bigger splashes at the trade deadline, Bowman quietly acquired Handzus from the San Jose Sharks for a fourth-round pick. It wasn’t Jarome Iginla; it wasn’t Jaromir Jagr. It wasn’t even Derek Roy.
It was the kind of subtle move that wins championships. The Blackhawks thought they were getting a center who could win faceoffs and pitch in on the penalty kill.
By the time the finals were played, he was centering a line with Marian Hossa and Sharp.
"Unbelievable," Hossa said. "I don’t think anybody could hope for a better fit to our organization ... he was unreal."
Until you win, you never know what’s going to run through your mind as the Cup is being passed. For Handzus, he thought of his family. Of his late father, who would have loved this moment. Of the family who was here to witness the celebration. His wife, Zuzana, and their 11-month-old son, Tomas. Handzus cut an interview short to find them, hug his wife and grab his son, wearing a tiny red Blackhawks jersey.
"I have to go to them," he said.
They shared in the sacrifice, they share in the celebration.
"You know how hard he works all the time. Every day. He gives up everything," Zuzana said. "We’re so happy this finally happened."
BOSTON -- Michal Rozsival can always sleep before a game. It’s the same routine all players have. Morning skate, team meal and a quick nap. But even at 34 years old and a long way from breaking into the league in 1999, there are still surprises.