Bickell, Carcillo honorary coaches to under-privileged kids
What do you get when you bring together 40 under-privileged kids with two Stanley Cup-winning members of the Chicago Blackhawks?
A thousand smiles. Inspirational stories. And a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see, touch and be photographed with sports' most famous trophy.
All of that was on display during a memorable Thursday evening at the Sheraton Grand Chicago as the hotel hosted the "Go Beyond Challenge" for the Inner City Education program.
Daniel Carcillo and Bryan Bickell, who won Cups with the Hawks in 2013 and 2015, were honorary coaches for the two teams of 20 kids ages 6 to 12. The lucky 40 players were chosen among the program's 120 participants because of their behavior, grades and their attendance at hockey practice and tutoring.
"Now I have time to do more things like this, which is great to (be able) to put smiles on kids," Bickell said. "I know you guys know me. I don't say no to a lot of things that I enjoy. Helping out kids … and doing things like this, it's definitely cool."
The demographic taking part in ICE is much different from Hawks fans are used to seeing at the United Center.
Ninety-six percent of the kids are on their school's lunch program. Many of the families don't have cars. And many of the kids reside in single-family homes or with grandparents or another family member.
Brad Erickson, who is the founder and Executive Director of ICE, began the program in 2003 to help kids obtain educational and hockey opportunities. Last year, 16 of them received scholarships to attend private schools and that number will increase to 20-25 next year.
"I wanted to give out scholarships because I thought that would be the best way to change the lives of the kids in these low-income areas," said Erickson, who went on to talk about how the principal at Cicero East lauded the program's success. "She could tell a difference with the kids in the hallway, kids are more confident, walking with their heads up. More social. More outgoing. Grades have improved. Behavior has improved. I've had parents tell me the same thing. So much of a bigger impact than I expected."
Some kids knew Carcillo and Bickell would be in attendance, but all of them were in for a big surprise when the Stanley Cup appeared.
"They've never seen the Stanley Cup except for on TV," Erickson said. "So to be able to get near it, touch it and get pictures with it -- they're going to go crazy."
Bickell, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November and retired after the season, found out about the event a couple of months ago and was thrilled to be able to attend.
Bickell and his wife, Amanda, are still living in Raleigh with their two daughters, but he said they are planning to move back to Canada at the end of May. The 30-year-old played in just four NHL games after being diagnosed with MS, but he had quite the storybook ending by scoring in the shootout in Carolina's season-ending win at Philadelphia.
An emotional Bickell couldn't get through an interview the night before when asked if he would be able to play next season.
"I'm sure you guys saw the video," Bickell told us at the Sheraton. "That's the day before I talked to Amanda, my wife, and kind of thought, 'This is it.' I kind of broke down, talking about family and teammates and what's next. …
"We kind of knew it was going to come. … It was tough to decide to move on. (But) for me and my health, to be around my kids, was the most important thing."
As for Carcillo, he continues to run Jet Hockey Training Arena in Glenview and he plans to coach an under-15 AAA team next season. His non-profit Chapter 5 foundation is also helping current players try to form a plan for retirement, and former players deal with the trials and tribulations of having more time on their hands than they know what to do with.
Said Carcillo: "To have a purpose in life, to be selfless, to put others before myself -- it helps me stay happy and healthy."