Keith, Kane express their emotions over Crawford's retirement

  • Former Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford celebrates with teammate Duncan Keith after the Blackhawks defeated the Montreal Canadiens in game in January, 2020 in Montreal.

    Former Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford celebrates with teammate Duncan Keith after the Blackhawks defeated the Montreal Canadiens in game in January, 2020 in Montreal. ASSOCIATED PRESS

 
 
Updated 1/9/2021 3:43 PM

News of Corey Crawford's decision to retire Saturday spread like wildfire.

Shock. Sadness. Concern.

 

A flood of emotions hit Crawford's former Blackhawks teammates and coaches, as well as the millions of fans who cheered perhaps the best goaltender in franchise history through 10 mostly sensational seasons.

It was Duncan Keith, however, who really put everything into perspective. Don't feel bad for Crawford. Celebrate that he's in a good place -- that he's with his two young children and his wife.

A terrific career has come to an end. But a new chapter is beginning.

"I'm happy for him in the sense he made that decision and I think he's excited," said Keith, who had just come off the ice after Saturday's practice and had yet to speak with Crawford. "I can't say enough good things about Crow and the teammate that he was. We miss him around here, but all the best to him and his family in his next chapter in his life."

Said Joel Quenneville via text: "It was a privilege to have the opportunity to coach Crow and I thank him for his contributions to the Hawks' championship runs. He validated the importance of what great goaltending means. Wish Crow health and happiness as he begins his next chapter in life."

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Crawford always wanted to win a third Stanley Cup in Chicago.

It was something he steadfastly believed was possible and something he expounded upon at least a couple of times last season.

But when Crawford and the Hawks couldn't come to terms on a new contract, the sides went their separate ways. Crawford inked a two-year, $7.8 million contract with New Jersey on October 10 and sounded genuinely excited about beginning a new adventure with the Devils when he spoke with the media the next day.

Crawford never showed up to training camp, however, and ended up choosing this path, perhaps realizing how difficult it would be to leave his young family and play out a season in the wake of the coronavirus.

"I have been fortunate to have had a long career playing professional hockey for a living," Crawford said in a statement. "I wanted to continue my career, but believe I've given all I can to the game of hockey, and I have decided that it is time to retire.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Thank you to all of my teammates and coaches throughout the years. Also, thank you to the fans who make this great game what it is. I am happy and excited to move on to the next chapter of my life with my family."

Crawford finishes with a 260-162-53 record, a .918 save percentage and a 2.45 goals-against average. He won 30 games six times and posted a career-high 7 shutouts in 2015-16.

Only Tony Esposito (418) and Glenn Hall (276) won more games in a Blackhawks uniform.

Crawford was also 52-42 in the postseason with a .918 save percentage.

Many believed he should have been named the postseason MVP in 2013 over Patrick Kane when he allowed just 1.84 goals per game.

He was benched twice in the opening-round series against Nashville in 2015 but bounced back and backstopped the Hawks to yet another Stanley Cup by posting a .924 save percentage. He was truly at his best in the Stanley Cup Final against Tampa Bay, stopping a combined 80 of 82 shots in Games 4, 5 and 6.

"He was a gamer, you know?" Kane said. "We talk about his even-keel demeanor, but he got up for those big games and he shined in those big games."

Crawford wasn't perfect, of course. He lost do-or-die Game 7s against Los Angeles in the 2014 Western Conference finals and against St. Louis in the opening round of the 2016 playoffs.

He also missed significant time dealing with concussions in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Last season was a true roller coaster as the Hawks brought Robin Lehner aboard and Crawford was forced to share the net. After Lehner was traded, however, Crawford put together perhaps his best stretch in three years, going 5-2-0 with a .934 save percentage before the NHL shut down.

He was then infected with COVID-19 and missed nearly all of summer training as the Hawks prepared to face Edmonton in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. With barely any time to prepare, Crawford somehow led the Hawks to a series victory over the Oilers and absolutely stole Game 4 in the next round against Vegas by fending off a whopping 48 shots.

Those performances "absolutely floored" fellow netminder Collin Delia.

"It just kind of speaks to who he was as a goaltender," Delia said. "He was super professional, no matter the situation. He was going out there and stopping pucks.

"He didn't worry about all the other minutiae and everything going on around him. He kept it simple. That's really why he was able to excel in the playoffs and play as well as he did. ... It was absolutely amazing to see him perform that well."

In the end, we will all remember Crawford yanking off that helmet when the Hawks claimed their 2013 and '15 Cups. The second one was probably even more memorable, with it coming in front of 22,000 roaring fans at the United Center.

Close your eyes and you can still see it. There goes the helmet. Here comes the yell. Here come Crawford's teammates, sprinting and leaping into his arms to begin the celebration of a lifetime.

It's a moment Kane and Keith will never forget. They'll also remember the little things. Things like his quick wit. Or his willingness to take a joke. Or even his ability to snap out of a funk within seconds.

"He was always in a good mood, even when he was (ticked) off," Kane said. "If he got hit in the wrong place in practice ... he seemed to always be (ticked) off for a little bit and then you could see him smiling through his mask. Same thing off the ice.

"He (was) a guy you could joke around with and make fun of; and same thing, (he'd) give (it) back to you. We all loved him as a guy, we all appreciated him and his sense of humor. I don't think he was ever too high or too low. He was always pretty even keel and that's probably one of the reasons he had so much success in his career."

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