Hockey / Sports

Older Blackhawks don't take winning for granted

CHICAGO -- Michal Handzus, the 37-year-old Blackhawks center, endured a stretch in his career from 2005 to 2012 when the teams he was on either failed to make the playoffs or could not get out of the first round.

Marian Hossa, the 35-year-old winger, absorbed heartache after heartache in the playoffs before finally breaking through with the Hawks for his first Stanley Cup in 2010. Defenseman Michal Rozsival, 35, participated in just one conference final before winning the Cup with the Hawks last season.

On the other end of the age spectrum, Jonathan Toews is 26 and Patrick Kane is 25 with both chasing their third Stanley Cup around the time in life most people are just getting their footing in the workforce or completing graduate school. Like many on the Hawks, success has come early and often for them.

Hossa, Handzus and Rozsival can swap stories and share sympathy about what it's like to end several NHL seasons with an empty feeling. And at this point in their careers, they don't take for granted the success the Hawks have had in the twilight of their careers.

"Some of the older guys, we talk about it," Hossa said. "For the young guys, they probably don't know how that works. Everybody is different. For some guys, these types of opportunities start late in their career. For some other guys coming in, they think it's like an every-year basis.

"The older guys know that's not true and you have to work for it and when you have a chance, take advantage."

Handzus, whose future with the Hawks and in hockey is uncertain beyond the next few weeks, said he can appreciate winning more now that he has gone through several years of losing seasons and short playoff runs in the rest of his career.

"They're young, so maybe they feel it's normal," Handzus said. "I didn't win in the beginning. So I don't know how that feels. I think you appreciate it (more) because you have so many disappointments through your career and you know how losing sucks."

While Handzus and Hossa try to take some time to enjoy the current playoff run, Rozsival has a different stance. The revelry and reminiscing can wait.

"You can't really sit back and try to appreciate anything, especially now ..." Rozsival said. "You can't really be thinking about or enjoying anything at this stage of the season. But it's always great to be on a winning team and play with such a group as we have here."

A group that has several perspectives on winning.

"I don't know what's going to happen next year," Handzus said. "It's just a lot of fun to be in the playoffs and go deep because it's why you play hockey. It's the best time of your career."

(c)2014 Chicago Tribune

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