Blackhawks fans had to say goodbye to Bryan Bickell last year when he was traded to Carolina. Now the hockey world is getting ready to do the same after the winger revealed Saturday that he’s retiring from the NHL at the end of the season. Two more games, and Bickell will go off into the sunset to enjoy his post-hockey life.
That’s understandably got a lot of Blackhawks fans a tad emotional, because if you could say anything about Bickell’s career, it’s that it had ups and downs. Seriously, I can’t imagine many players who have had higher highs and lower lows in the same few years than Bickell.
He went from playoff hero to lightning rod of fan criticism quickly, only to find himself traded out of town in a deal that cost the Blackhawks one of their best young players. Even on his way out the door, Bickell exacted a toll on the Blackhawks for the past decision to offer him money he couldn’t possibly refuse.
But the health issues that began during the 2015 playoffs put a different light to his struggles on the ice, then the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis last year made it clear his biggest battles had nothing to do with hockey. Suddenly Bickell’s final couple years in Chicago didn’t just feel unceremonious, they felt downright unfair, to him more than anyone.
So we hope Blackhawks fans will celebrate Bickell for those incredible highs, rather than the lows, because the highs were so very special. Most players go their whole careers without the moments that we got to share with him, especially in 2013. So with the news that he’s officially calling it quits, let’s run back through some of our favorite moments of Bickell’s Blackhawks career.
17 Seconds, Goal No. 1
How could you possibly start anywhere else? This was easily the best moment of my sports fandom until the Cubs’ World Series gave it a run for its money last year. Can you imagine the feeling for Bickell? Scoring the game-tying goal in an opponent’s arena in Game 6 of a Stanley Cup Final en route to a clinching win? Almost perfect.
This is what Bickell did at his best. He was big enough to get into areas where the defense didn’t want him, and had a quick enough stick to make opponents pay when his teammates set him up. For a lot of fans, this is THE moment, and he was a part of it.
The OT winner vs. Minnesota
Before the Hawks could even get to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, they needed to beat the Wild in the quarterfinals. Game 1 was a tight battle that went deep into overtime when Johnny Oduya made an incredible lift pass to set up Viktor Stalberg with a zone entry.
In the corner of your eye, you can see Bickell trailing way behind, then after Stalberg pulls up, Bickell comes streaking out of nowhere to beat the goalie with a backhand move for the win. He was quite happy:
Bickell vs. Chara
You’d be crazy to fight Zdeno Chara, right? Well, Bickell tried it at the end of a wild Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final that saw the Bruins take a 2-1 series lead. Not that it went particularly well for anyone involved, but you have to imagine Bickell’s teammates appreciated his willingness to take on the towering defenseman (as long as nobody got hurt).
The breakaway vs. Canucks in 2011 playoffs
This was probably the first truly memorable highlight of Bickell’s career. The Blackhawks were down 3-0 to the Canucks in the 2011 Western Conference Finals when Bickell scored this huge goal early in Game 4. The Hawks ended up winning that game, 7-2, and the next two in order to force a Game 7.
Vancouver ended up holding on with an overtime win in Game 7 to advance to the Stanley Cup Final, but this was a great play by Bickell that helped ignite the comeback.
The spin move
This one wasn’t remotely as important as the others, but still pretty dang sweet. Bickell goes for the power spin move, then gets inside post to beat the goalie for one of the niftiest goals he ever scored.
That time he saved a guy who got struck by lightning
When Bryan Bickell saved a man struck by lightning. pic.twitter.com/6Jo2avMkWE— B®endan (@ChiBDM) April 8, 2017
Somehow this is a real thing, and it’s easily one of the best Bickell moments ever. I don’t care if this has nothing to do with hockey, he carried a man who got struck by lightning to safety. Thanks to @ChiBDM for reminding us of this one because it’s pretty dang amazing.
So those are some of my favorite Bickell moments, but I’m sure there everyone else has their own. Feel free to share them in the comments.