First things first: Michael Leighton does not know the whereabouts of the most famous puck in Blackhawks history.
The goaltender was, however, perhaps the second-to-last person to touch the puck that gave the Hawks their first championship in 49 years when Patrick Kane shot it past him in overtime of Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final against the Flyers in Philadelphia.
"I've heard there's a lot of controversy about it," said Leighton, who on Monday agreed to a one-year contract with the Hawks. "I don't know where the puck is. The last I've seen, it was under the net. I kind of lifted the net up and kicked it. I know the referee or linesman was beside me and that was it. That was really the last thing on my mind was finding out where that puck was."
While the puck remains missing, perhaps in the possession of linesman Steve Miller who was photographed by the Tribune taking it out of the net and skating away with it, Leighton is more concerned these days with winning a job in the NHL. The veteran signed a two-way contract with the Hawks after spending last season in Russia with the KHL. With Corey Crawford entrenched as the Hawks starter and Antti Raanta in place as his backup, Leighton will begin the season with Rockford of the AHL.
"In case an injury or anything else -- an emergency -- I'll be the call-up guy," Leighton said. "For me, it's just go down and play in Rockford. Obviously, I'd like to get called up and play in Chicago, but my mindset is to play my best hockey in Rockford for right now."
Leighton, 33, was originally drafted by the Hawks in the sixth round (165th overall) of the 1999 draft and appeared in 42 games over two seasons with them. During that time, Leighton went 8-21-10 with a 2.81 goals-against average and .901 save percentage. He then went on to play for the Predators (2006-07), Flyers (2006-07, 2009-13) and Hurricanes (2007-09). A Petrolia, Ontario, native, Leighton spent last season with the KHL's Donbass Donetsk.
After missing training camp in Russia with an illness, Leighton said he explored opportunities to return to North America and landed with the Hawks.
"I can't speculate or say what the (Hawks) organization has in mind for me," Leighton said. "I'm going to go to training camp and do my best. My goal is obviously to play better than (Raanta) and Crawford if I can. That's all I can control. I'm going to go into camp in good shape and play my best and if it doesn't work out, I'll work hard in Rockford to get back to it. If it works out, great, that's my goal. I want to play in the NHL; I want to play for the Blackhawks. My focus right now is playing the best hockey I can and let the chips fall as they may."
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