(MCT) — Frigid temperatures along the lakefront were no match for the warmth coming from the ice when the Blackhawks skated with wounded soldiers Saturday at Soldier Field.
After a short workout, the Hawks were joined on the ice by members of USA Warriors, an organization designed to give veterans who have been injured in military action the chance to play hockey. The private event was on the ice rink situated in the middle of the field that Sunday will be host to two college hockey games — Notre Dame vs. Miami of Ohio and Wisconsin vs. Minnesota.
“To get to talk to them and understand the things they went through ... is definitely really special for us,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “We look up to them. We appreciate everything they’ve done for us, and to us they’re the real heroes. To share the ice and have them out for practice with us is a pretty huge honor for the guys.”
Added goaltender Ray Emery: “It’s people who have sacrificed a lot and went through a lot to come back and enjoy a sport they love and we love. It was special for both sides.”
The Hawks have a history with wounded veterans, having visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2011 when they were in Washington to meet with President Barack Obama to honor the ‘10 Stanley Cup championship team. On that trip they also skated with wounded veterans, including Mark Little of Fairfax, Va., who was on the ice Saturday.
“When people say we’re heroes, we hardly see ourselves that way,” said Little, 29, who lost both legs to an improvised explosive device roadside attack in Baghdad in 2007. “We’re just lucky to still be here. A lot of our brothers and sisters aren’t.
“We’re so fortunate that we get these experiences. The middle of Soldier Field — you can’t say more about it. We’re all soldiers in the end — marines, sailors, airmen out here playing hockey, the sport we love.”
Status quo: Coach Joel Quenneville said there was “no change” in the status of starting goaltender Corey Crawford, who is sidelined with an upper-body injury.
Emery will get his second consecutive start Sunday when the Hawks face the Kings at the United Center.
“It’s nice to play consistently, (and) as a goalie you want to play as often as you can,” said Emery, 4-0-0 this season. “You don’t want it to happen when another guy is hurting, but I’m excited to play.”
Fight redux: Toews was sporting a blackened right eye as a result of his first-period fight Friday night with the Sharks’ Joe Thornton. The captain was upset with the physical play of Thornton this season and in the past and decided to do something about it.
“There are times where you have to assert yourself and stand up for yourself — that’s all it was,” said Toews, who has had three fights in the NHL. “You’re not going to see me do that very often. You want to buy yourself time and space and respect That’s something you have to do to prove you deserve it.”
He said it: Patrick Sharp on Toews: “He has a black eye and a fat lip. It’s a new look for him.”
No mas: After Patrick Kane was asked when he would get into his first fight, the winger held up his hands and said with a laugh, “I don’t want to mess these things up too bad.”
Coming soon: Winger Daniel Carcillo was on the ice Saturday and is nearing a return after missing 13 games with a sprained right knee.
“He’s closer,” Quenneville said. “I don’t expect him for (Sunday).”