Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives May 10 2015, Page 19

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - May 10, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE B4 B4 WINNIPEG FREE PRESS SUNDAY, MAY 10, 2015 winnipegfreepress. com NHL PLAYOFF REPORT B RYAN BICKELL picks at the laces on his skates as he sits in front of his locker in the basement of the United Center. “ I think about it sometimes,” he begins. The Blackhawks left- winger goes quiet. He wants to taste these words before he lets them out. Bryan Bickell was supposed to be a twin. His mother, Anne Bickell, miscarried his sibling four months into her pregnancy. Ultrasounds then were not as routine as they are today, so Anne Bickell didn’t know until a couple of weeks later she still was pregnant. “ They didn’t realize I was still in the room,” Bickell says. “ It is kind of crazy. What if him or her was in the world, where would I be?” Five months later, on March 9, 1986, Bryan Bickell was born, the second of Bill and Anne Bickell’s two children. “ I was fortunate,” Bickell says. Bryan was 9 or 10 years old when he learned of the sibling he didn’t have. “ We told him, ‘ You’re the one who made it,’ ” Bill says. “ ‘ You can’t really hold back.’ ” Bryan Bickell grew up in a threebedroom, two- bath brick bungalow on an acre of land in Orono, Ont. — a quiet, rural town of about 1,600 located 45 minutes east of Toronto. There’s a ravine in the back, where the family’s dogs play. The sign welcoming visitors to town touts its most famous native: “ Welcome you. Watch for our children. Home of Stanley Cup Champion Bryan Bickell.” This is where Bryan fished and played sports with his older sister, Ashley. This was where he would sell hockey cards at the end of the family’s driveway by day and tell his dreams to his sister by night. “ He told me once he was going to be a millionaire,” Ashley says. It is where Bryan once froze the home’s septic system after flooding the yard above it for a makeshift rink. It is the place where Bill, a retired heavy- equipment operator who keeps busy running a construction company, and Anne, who runs an automotive garage and owns a quilt store, still call home. A net still hangs in the Bickells’ yard, the same net at which Bryan would fire puck after puck until dusk, pretending he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Orono also is where Bryan Bickell’s hockey career was born — in figure skates. That’s how he learned to manoeuvre on the ice as a toddler. “ I always say I got the skills and the other twin had the brains,” Bryan says. Ice isn’t the only place where Bickell showed some skills. . . . Bill Bickell’s right hand squeezes a Dunkin Donuts cup soiled with ashes. In his left hand is a half- lit, brown mini- cigar. Between drags, he begins to tell a story. Bill is particularly proud of this one, about how his son worked out for New York Yankees scouts when he was 16. About how his boy once hit three home runs in a game to catch the attention of the most successful baseball franchise in history. “ Imagine telling the Yankees — the New York Yankees! — you’re not interested, that you’re going to play hockey,” says Bill, who played baseball while growing up. “ But it all worked out.” Long before winning two Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks, Bryan spent some of his summers pitching and playing centre field for the Kendal Royals, in a town league in nearby Bowmanville. But one summer, as hockey season leaned into baseball season, a choice had to be made. There was no way Bickell was going to give up hockey. “ I didn’t really say no ( to the Yankees),” Bryan says. “ They wanted to see if I was the real deal, to see if I had potential. They thought I had some, but my heart was in hockey.” So much so he left home to play junior hockey for the Ottawa 67s. When he wasn’t playing, he worked at a bike store or as a construction worker. Oh, and he was a clubhouse boy for six months for the Ottawa Senators, for whom he picked up dirty laundry and towels, and cleaned up garbage. He landed the job through a co- op work- study program, a filler course so he could graduate from high school. Little did he know then he now would be chasing a Stanley Cup with one of those Senators, Antoine Vermette. “ Not every day a 16- year- old, 17- year- old kid that plays hockey gets to go in the locker- room and watch NHL players — how they perform and practise, how the locker- room is,” Bryan says. In 2004, the Blackhawks selected him 41st overall in the second round of the NHL draft. He is now in the third year of a fouryear, $ 16- million extension he signed in the summer of 2013. That milliondollar dream came true. He’s married now, to Amanda, and the two have a baby daughter named Makayla. He was honoured as Blackhawk of the Year during the Comcast Sports- Net Sports Awards in March for his contributions on and off the ice. But there are times when wonder nags at him. He says he has seen the connection twins can share. Then he takes to heart his father’s words: You’re the one who made it. You can’t hold back. “ You don’t want to see bad things happen,” Bryan says. “ If I had a twin I probably wouldn’t be playing hockey. It was tough financially ( for my family) for me to play.” . . . Blackhawks fans always will remember Bryan Bickell as the one who started the famous “ 17 seconds.” His goal with 1 minute, 16 seconds left against the Bruins in Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final preceded Dave Bolland’s winning score 17 seconds later. Bickell endured some sleepy play during the 2014- 15 regular season, when he saw his ice time dwindle as he struggled offensively. He doesn’t have a goal this postseason but contributed two assists in the first round against the Predators, against whom he used his 6- 4, 233- pound frame for a team- best 35 hits. He finished the regular season with 14 goals and 14 assists. “ He has had some games where he looks like he’s showing he’s there or he’s coming out of it,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “ He’s a threat to be an impact power forward. He’s showing more signs of consistency in games, where he’s going to be making an impact shift in, shift out, which could really influence a game.” Bickell had nine goals, eight assists and a plus- minus of plus- 11 during the 2013 playoffs, and seven goals and three assists last post- season. He has 20 goals and 16 assists and is a plus- 20 in 63 career postseason games. “ You just have to look at how he plays and how he feels,” Bill Bickell says. “ He likes ice. You piss him off, you have a hockey player. But it takes a lot to get him pissed off. Maybe that’s one of his faults.” Or maybe it takes a lot because Bryan Bickell has gone through a lot to get here. He can’t predict where here will lead. One thing is for sure, though: Bryan Bickell hasn’t held back. — Chicago Tribune By Paul Skrbina No holding back Blackhawk Bryan Bickell is living life for two people HIGHLY touted college free- agent Matt O’Connor chose to sign with the Ottawa Senators, giving them another potential goaltender of the future. The Senators agreed to terms with the Boston University standout on a two- year entry- level contract worth US$ 925,000 annually with the maximum signing bonus possible. O’Connor expects to play next season with Binghamton of the American Hockey League to adjust to professional hockey. “ I’m not one to come into an organization and demand games or expect promises because the bottom line is it’s about stopping the puck,” O’Connor said on a conference call Saturday. “ I think that’s a big opportunity for me to essentially develop my game and go where I’m ready. “ As a goalie you want to go when you’re ready and you want the organization to have you play when you’re ready, and I think I’ve got a two- year window to develop as the best goalie I can be.” Inside that two- year window, the Senators have some goaltending decisions to make. Veterans Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner are under contract for three and two more seasons, respectively, and second- half star Andrew Hammond is an unrestricted free agent. O’Connor is a blue- chip NHL prospect at the age of 23 after going 25- 4- 4 with a 2.18 goalsagainst average and .927 save percentage in his junior season at Boston University. But he and the organization realize he needs some seasoning. “ We are confident that under the tutelage of our player development staff, Matt will have the opportunity to develop into an outstanding NHL goaltender,” general manager Bryan Murray said. Ottawa already has three NHL goaltenders presently, assuming Hammond’s 20- 1- 2 performance to spark the Senators’ improbable run to the playoffs qualifies him for that distinction. If Hammond re- signs, the club is expected to trade either Anderson or Lehner, with plenty of teams — like the Edmonton Oilers — in need of a starter. Signing O’Connor gives Murray “ some options” because it’s more goaltending depth, according to assistant GM Randy Lee. “ As we know Andrew Hammond’s still not signed yet, so that’s another domino that has to fall and to see which way that goes,” Lee said. “ But at least it gives Bryan a card to play if he wishes to do so.” Because he’s older, O’Connor isn’t expected to need as long as a teenage draft pick to reach the NHL. That’s part of what made him so sought after, with many NHL teams putting in offers. O’Connor’s final four were the Senators, Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers. He wound up choosing the team that invited him to his first development camp, in 2011. — The Associated Pressw ELISE AMENDOLA / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES BU goalie Matt O’Connor gained infamy for scoring on himself in the NCAA Frozen Four. Sens add to wealth of goalies By Stephen Whyno Boston University star O’Connor signs deal AP PHOTO/ NAM Y. HUH Chicago Blackhawks left- winger Bryan Bickell can’t help but wonder how life would have turned out if his twin had survived. B_ 04_ May- 10- 15_ FP_ 01. indd B4 5/ 9/ 15 8: 03: 32 PM

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