Good morning, Blackhawks fans. The Super Bowl is now in the past, so we can go ahead and direct our entire focus to the return of Connor Bedard. His doctor appointments are every Monday, and today is five weeks since his surgery (six since the injury itself). So now we’re into the real “when will he return?” watch part of the month. Keep in mind the Canucks — his hometown team — and Sidney Crosby’s Penguins are the Hawks’ next two games. I don’t expect him to play in either of those games, but if there was a week he had circled on his own calendar to get back…
UPDATE: It’s happening! The Blackhawks expect Connor Bedard back next week!
While we’re on the subject of the Blackhawks’ IR list, Anthony Beauvillier and Connor Murphy have been skating. Andreas Athanasiou made his first on-ice appearance in what? Four months? this weekend, which is a relatively positive sign. We’ll see if any of these guys is coming back any time soon. I would tend to think Murphy might be first on the list based on head coach Luke Richardson’s comments, but he’s still technically week-to-week. For what it’s worth, Jarred Tinordi was out an hour before the rest of the team skating with Bedard, Beauvillier and Athanasiou on Monday.
Another reminder for the Blackhawks-Red Wings game on the 25th: the jersey retirement ceremony for Chris Chelios begins at 3:10 PM. The game starts at 5. And there are some events in the United Center Atrium before the on-ice ceremony. So plan on a long, fun Sunday afternoon at 1901 W. Madison in two weeks.
A couple interesting nuggets from this excellent piece by Ben Pope at the Chicago Sun-Times on the Blackhawks’ strong attendance continuing through the season, even without Connor Bedard available for the last month.
I shared our weekly three stars from the college ranks this morning. Minnesota’s on a heater as a team and Oliver Moore had a nice Friday night. We’re getting closer to the end of the regular season, so teams are battling for conference and national tournament position.
Scott Powers over at The Athletic made the drive to Detroit to watch Frank Nazar and Michigan skate against Michigan State. The Wolverines got swept by a really good Sparty squad this weekend, but Powers does a nice job of discussing what he saw from Nazar and his personal assessment of whether or not he thinks Nazar is ready to make the move to the professional ranks whenever Michigan’s season ends. Based on my conversation with him a couple weeks ago, I think there’s a strong likelihood Nazar goes pro after this season. But he hasn’t made anything sound like a done deal yet.
So Morgan Reilly gets to have an in-person hearing for being a clown after Ridley Greig opted to go full slapper into an empty cage this weekend. That means the NHL can go over five games on the suspension. What. A. Shame.
According to data shared by the team this week, the Hawks have boosted their female fan base by 27% since April 2020 and now boast the largest female fan base in the league.
They also have increased their non-white fan base by 45% since April 2020, making it the third-largest in the league. And their Gen Z fan base, which has grown exponentially in recent years, is the second-largest in the NHL.
In case you missed it this weekend (I understand if you did), Alexander Ovechkin scored his 57th career empty-net goal. That is now the NHL’s all-time record. Ovi had been tied with Wayne Gretzky on top of that career list at 56. I appreciate the Caps social team sharing a video of all 57 from his illustrious career.
Finally, Bear Down! With the Super Bowl over, the Chicago Bears are on the clock with the first pick of the 2024 NFL Draft. And yes, this is a huge offseason for the future of that franchise.