Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Hawks had Big Buff jumping out of seat
By Jesse Rogers
Dustin Byfuglien was excited to see his former team come close to eliminating the Canucks this season.
It takes a lot to get Dustin Byfuglien excited, but when Jonathan Toews scored a game-tying goal with 1:56 left in regulation in Game 7 of the Western Conference quarterfinals against the Vancouver Canucks, it brought "Big Buff" out of his seat.
It probably brought back memories for Byfuglien, whose playoff heroics last season helped the Chicago Blackhawks eliminate the Canucks in the conference semifinals and spur them onto the Stanley Cup title.
"I think that may have been the first time in my life I got out of my seat when [Toews] scored the shorthander in Game 7 there to tie the game," Byfuglien said in a phone interview Wednesday. "I thought they were going to win."
Byfuglien watched the incredible series -- which Vancouver clinched in overtime -- and felt the same range of emotions most fans endured.
"I thought they did a damn good job, but when they got down [3-0 in the series] I was like ‘Whoa,'" Byfuglien said. "But they turned it around. That was cool."
It was this month a year ago when Byfuglien and two other Hawks were traded to the Atlanta Thrashers in a blockbuster deal, tempering the Cup celebration for several players and fans.
And after signing a 5-year, $26 million extension with his new club in February, Byfuglien is on the move again. The Thrashers were officially relocated to Winnipeg on Tuesday, and while it's just a short trip from his home in Roseau, Minn., the move, and all the rumors surrounding it, had an effect on the low-key Byfuglien.
"[The move came into play during contract negotiations], but at that point the general manager and front office, they weren't in the loop either," he explained. "With Rick Dudley around I thought we had a fighting chance [to win], and hopefully he gets a chance up in Winnipeg, too."
Byfuglien likes to "fly under the radar" and was able to do just that in Atlanta after some high profile years in Chicago. Now he returns to a hockey crazed atmosphere.
"The fans are going to be nuts up there," he said. "It's going to be fun to play in front of a wild crowd again that's for sure. But I'll still be able to hide. I'll be just fine."
Byfuglien says he hasn't changed any since being drafted in the eighth round by the Hawks in 2003. His $26 million deal comes on the heel of a just completed $15 million he signed with the Hawks three years ago and not long after appearing in his first All-Star game.
"I bought a little fishing boat, a 21-foot Ranger," he said. "Hey, its cold in Winnipeg, but there are some great lakes for fishing up there. We'll just take the 'show' north."
As for his former Chicago teammates, he knows the Stanley Cup bond will always be there even if they don't talk about the championship often.
"In a few years we'll talk about it more," Byfuglien said. "Not too much now. My family talks about it when I come back. I still text all the guys. There isn't just one person I stay in touch with."
Jesse Rogers covers the Blackhawks for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.