'It was a tough day.': Blackhawks players react to Quenneville firing
Utter and complete shock.
That was the overwhelming emotion emanating from the Blackhawks locker room on the day Joel Quenneville was fired after 10 seasons as the team's head coach.
"Tough, you know?" said a subdued and thoughtful Brent Seabrook. "I don't know how to really describe it. We've been with Joel for a long time and any time you lose a coach, it's tough."
Seabrook, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith grew as NHLers and learned how to win under Quenneville from the moment he was hired four games into the 2008-09 season.
Now Quenneville's gone, replaced by 33-year-old Jeremy Colliton.
"There's no doubt there's going to be some shock, especially for guys like myself and the other guys that have played for him for a long time," Toews said. "Obviously there's strong bonds and strong relationships there with the success that we had.
"You always form deep friendships with not only your teammates, but you can say the same with your coaching staff. Joel was our leader for three championships and a lot of success in-between. So it's definitely a tough day to come to the rink and (realize) he's not here today."
All of the veterans know they could have done better to keep this from happening, with Kane especially remorseful for not being 100 percent on the recently completed road trip that saw the Hawks lose three straight.
Said Kane: "When I first hear the news I'm just kind of thinking, 'I wish I wasn't sick that game in Vancouver. I wish I maybe felt good on the road trip and could have played better and maybe something like this doesn't happen.'
"I think Joel actually got a lot out of this group the past couple years. He's done a great job of bringing the younger guys along and developing them and same thing as this year as well. Obviously missing the playoffs (last season) didn't help. There's a lot of answers I don't have, but definitely a tough morning for everyone for sure."
It's fair to wonder if players can start to tune out a coach who has been around for so long. In the same breath, however, the NHL has changed drastically in the last few years and it's also fair to wonder if Quenneville failed to adapt to a game that is almost all about speed.
"The respect has always been there for Joel," Toews said. "At the same time, sometimes when you're so close to the action for so long and the same problems keep coming up, a new look is what you need. We'll just go forward knowing that Jeremy Colliton's our guy."
As for practice, it definitely felt like the players were going through the motions at MB Ice Arena.
There wasn't much talking, not much celebrating after a goal or a big save and an overall feeling that everyone knew an era had just ended.
"Practice was, we were all sort of … it was a tough day," said Seabrook, searching for the right words. "Today was today and tomorrow, I'm sure (Colliton will) throw some more stuff at us and go after some different things.
"We have to be ready to work, to listen and learn some new stuff and go from there."