Blackhawks' Ward very grateful for his Winter Classic start
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Cam Ward's been in the NHL for 14 years.
He's won 324 games and hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes.
So one might think a grizzled veteran like the 34-year-old netminder might shrug his shoulders if he was passed over for the red-hot Collin Delia when the Blackhawks hosted the Boston Bruins in the Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium on Tuesday.
But that wasn't at all the case.
"I was extremely excited and also thankful at the same time," Ward said when coach Jeremy Colliton delivered the news that he would be starting. "I know that wasn't an easy decision because Collin's been playing so great. That's a credit to Collin that it was that difficult of a decision.
"But I've been in this league for 14 years and never able to play in a Winter Classic."
Ward made 32 saves in the Blackhawks' 4-2 loss. His performance early on was particularly impressive as he stopped a point-blank shot by David Krejci in the opening minute and also batted a puck out of the crease before the game was two minutes old.
Ward also kept it a 1-goal game by turning away a Sean Kuraly breakaway attempt with 2:47 remaining.
"He made a couple big saves to allow us to get into the game," Colliton said. "He was good all night."
Because Delia (3-0-0, .957 save percentage, 1.66 goals-against average) has been so good since being called up in the wake of Corey Crawford's injury, many thought he earned the right to start. But Colliton said he trusts Ward, and he also doesn't want Delia to feel too much pressure too soon.
"We take him out and he can sit on a positive performance for a few days and sort of consolidate," Colliton said. "Hopefully when he gets back in, he's going to maintain his level. If he plays every night for a long period, it makes it harder on him."
As for Ward, who is approaching his 700th regular-season game, he said he definitely felt pressure to perform on such a big stage.
"Sure. When you're playing in front of 80,000 fans, you don't want to put up a stinker," Ward said. "I think you just try to approach it like any other game -- as cliché as that is.
"Right from the get-go, it brought you back to your childhood. It was easy to have fun and enjoy it because you felt it was that special. …
"It gave me goosebumps right from the beginning when we walked in behind the marching band. I thought that was really neat.
"This is an experience that nobody will ever get. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity, especially here at Notre Dame and I certainly enjoyed it."