DENVER — Jack Johnson’s first game with the Blackhawks on Wednesday will include plenty of deja-vu moments.
Across the ice from him at all times will be the Avalanche players he called teammates up until June, when their last memory created together was — of all things — winning the Stanley Cup.
Skating on the Hawks’ top defensive pair Wednesday alongside Seth Jones, the veteran defenseman will need to reverse his loyalties quickly.
“It’s definitely going to be emotional, [and] it’s going to be weird,” Johnson said pregame. “This is something I’ve never come across. This is different than being traded or just signing somewhere else.
“When you’ve gone through something like that with another team, you’ve got a special bond together, and it was not that long ago. When you line up across from them and you’ve got nothing but love for the guys on the other side, it’s definitely a unique experience.”
The scheduling quirk did allow Johnson to attend the Avalanche’s Stanley Cup ring-presenting ceremony and banquet Monday night, as a silver lining.
But come Wednesday, even that had him contemplating another strange situation. With the Hawks playing in Las Vegas on Thursday and San Jose on Saturday before returning to Chicago, how would he transport the ring? The shoebox-size case it came in didn’t help matters.
“You can’t just slip it in your bag,” he said, laughing. “[I’m] definitely not mailing it. It’s still with me, but I’m just going to carry it with me the rest of the time. I don’t want it to go out of my hands right now.”
Tinordi thrown in
Wednesday’s game will also be weird for new Hawks defenseman Jarred Tinordi, but in a different way.
Just three days ago, on Sunday, he was wrapping up training camp with the Rangers when he was placed on waivers. He had no idea if he was going to get claimed or which team it would be.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Tinordi said. “The clock struck 2:00 [on Monday, and] you’re waiting and waiting. You know you’re going to hear from somebody. [Rangers general manager] Chris Drury texted me [Hawks GM Kyle Davidson’s] number and said, ‘Happy for you.’ Then I talked to Kyle, and that was pretty much it. We started making some plans from there.”
Hawks practice Tuesday and morning skate Wednesday were Tinordi’s only opportunities to skate with his new team before the real thing begins.
“Once I found out I was picked up, I put the kids to bed back home, packed and got ready to fly out in the morning,” he said. “There hasn’t really been a whole lot of time.”
Fortunately, he does have two things working in his favor: Hawks coach Luke Richardson’s new box-plus-one defensive system is similar to the Rangers’ system, and Tinordi already knows his partner, Connor Murphy, from overlapping stretches with the Coyotes and the U.S. National Team Development Program.
“He’s a veteran,” Richardson said. “He has been around different teams, [experienced] lots of change throughout the years during the season. He’s a guy that’s going to be able to adapt to that pretty quickly.”
Tinordi has certainly been around. Over the last decade, he has played in 538 pro games: 109 NHL games for five different NHL teams, and 429 AHL games for six different AHL teams.
“I try to be physical, clear the net front, win my battles in the corners and move the puck quickly,” he said. “Those are the keys to success for me.”