It was an emotional afternoon in Chicago as Bryan Bickell signed a one-day contract with the Blackhawks to retire with the team where his career began.
Bickell announced his retirement from hockey in April following news the 31-year-old had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). He took the podium Wednesday afternoon, wearing a Blackhawks sweater to explain what the moment meant to him.
“Hopefully I can keep it together here,” Bickell said — walking to the dais with a smile. He thanked the team for giving him the opportunity to finish his career where it started in 2006, when he was the 41st-overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft.
Bickell said the Blackhawks immediately contacted him following his final game and said they wanted to sign him to a one-day contract to close out his career, a move he was very grateful for.
“I got the call from the guys to do this, and it was great to be a part of it. We have so much history here, and I didn’t want it any other way.”
Questions soon pivoted to Bickell’s plans post-hockey, and his involvement raising awareness for MS.
“I want to be a figure for MS, to tell my story about what I went through. Just inspire other people that get diagnosed, and the experience with their families. Just make awareness. I’m happy to be a part of it to help out in any way. I know it’s a new thing for our foundation. We’re going to be working with dogs to give service dogs to people, so any way I can help and I always enjoy helping through the community.”
Throughout the difficult press conference there were moments of levity, thanks to Bickell’s baby daughter Kinsley, who wanted to be by her dad’s side while he was speaking.
It was after this that Bickell could no longer hold back his emotions, chuckling that he was glad the Blackhawks had tissues on hand. He spoke about the franchise meaning more than moments on the ice, but experiences like his retirement press conference that he will remember forever.
“I’ll try to keep it together. I didn’t want to do this. It was tough. There was times I didn’t know if I even wanted to do this (the press conference). I didn’t know if I could do this.”
Bickell will always be remembered as an important player during the brightest time in Blackhawks’ history. There are rumors Bickell could play one last shift for the team this season, according to Second City Hockey, which would be the perfect close to his career.