Author’s note: with the Chicago Blackhawks locked in to the No. 8 pick for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, we’ve shifted the focus of our weekly “Former Blackhawk of the Week” series to players the franchise previously selected with that eighth pick. For the third and final part of this quick shift in focus, it’s 1998 No. 8 overall selection Mark Bell.
Way before Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were drafted, way before Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook made their NHL debuts in the 2005-06 season, Mark Bell was part of the group that was supposed to lead the Chicago Blackhawks out of hockey’s wilderness.
A huge skater at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Bell was selected eighth overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft after posting 60 points in 55 games for the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s. He then put up 72 points in 48 games the following season and spent the majority of the 2000-01 hockey season with the Norfolk Admirals, although he played in his first NHL game that winter, one of 13 games he skated while just 20 years old.
At the time, Bell was part of a young up-and-coming trio thought to be a fixture of the Hawks’ future along with forwards Kyle Calder and Tyler Arnason, dubbed the “ABC Line.” And in the first season that all three reached the NHL level together, the Hawks made a surprise run to the 2002 Stanley Cup Playoffs, losing in the first round to the St. Louis Blues.
Bell was the power forward of that trio and as much of an enforcer as the group had, finishing with over 100 penalty minutes in each of his four seasons in Chicago. When Bell’s abilities were at their peak, he could do things like this one-handed, game-winning goal against the Detroit Red Wings in 2003:
But the luster on that crop of young Blackhawks started to fade as the 2000s unfolded. Arnason would draw the ire of then-coach Bryan Sutter for a perceived lack of toughness (as we’ve discussed in an earlier edition of this series). Bell was a fairly consistent producer for the Hawks, scoring 28 points in his first season and having that number increase annually to 29, 45 and finally 48. He was also a 20-goal scorer in back-to-back seasons at the end of his Chicago tenure.
New general manager Dale Tallon took over the Hawks in 2005 and, one year later, traded Bell to the San Jose Sharks for Josh Hennessy and Tom Preissing. Twenty-four hours later, those two were flipped to Ottawa, along with another prospect and a pick, for Bryan Smolinski and Martin Havlat, a series of moves that, in hindsight, was a major win for the Hawks.
Bell ran into legal troubles in San Jose, charged in a drunk driving accident over Labor Day Weekend in 2006. He received a 15-game suspension from the NHL and was placed in the league’s substance abuse program for the incident but, to Bell’s credit, he cleaned up his lifestyle following that accident and played hockey for another decade. He spent seasons with the Sharks and the Toronto Maple Leafs, played five games with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 2011-12, but played out the majority of his remaining hockey days in Europe.
In June 2016, he announced his retirement from professional hockey at the age of 35.