The BMO Harris Bank Center is a gloomy sight. Workers are taking down the ice and the rink. Players had their bags packed and said their good-byes.
“It’s tough when the end of the season comes. It’s always too short unless you’re the one winner,” says center Jake Dowell.
“You’re together eight months and it could be the last time you see a lot of these players. Guys that might not be back or resign with other teams, so these days are always tough,” says head coach Ted Dent.
There will be plenty of time for reflection on a regular season that saw the Hogs rack up 94 standing points and top five thousand in average attendance for the first time in franchise history.
But being swept in three games in the playoffs by Lake Erie is what weighs on their minds right now.
“It’s disappointing for sure. We didn’t get the job done. That’s the bottom line,” says Dent.
Veterans like P.C. Labrie, Michael Leighton and Jake Dowell are all free agents with uncertain futures. They all say they enjoy playing here and they’d all like to be back.
“Yea I had fun coming to the rink every day, so that’s one thing and it doesn’t happen every year,” says Labrie.
“Hopefully I come back here and maybe be back here or in Chicago,” says Leighton.
The young nucleus that will be returning next year includes players like Tyler Motte, Ville Pokka, Ryan Hartman, Vince Hinostroza and Tanner Kero. They’ll also be trying to win jobs with the Blackhawks in training camp.
“It was a good learning year,” says Kero. “I was fortunate enough to go up to Chicago and play a few games there and learn how they play in their kind of their system and what it’s like to be up there. It was a good learning year.”