CHICAGO – Like many of his elder teammates on the Blackhawks, 20-year-old forward Brandon Saad won a ring in 2010.
OK, so maybe it wasn’t as gigantic as a Stanley Cup ring.
“Oh, no,” Saad said with a laugh Tuesday at the United Center. “Not even close.
“I won under-18s with the (U.S.) national team. I got a ring from that. It’s probably the most proud thing I have, jewelry wise. Hopefully, I can add to the collection this year.”
The pursuit continues tonight, when the Hawks host the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
One thousand storylines will emerge in the days and weeks ahead as two Original Six teams face off for a championship for the first time since 1979. Cameras will zoom in on dozens of rough-and-tumble hockey players with scruffy beards, missing teeth and fiery eyes.
But make no mistake about it, these guys are thinking about jewelry, too.
Eight Hawks players logged ice time during the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals and are aiming to win ring No. 2. That group includes Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Dave Bolland.
Meanwhile, everyone else on the Hawks is hoping to join the club.
Take Andrew Shaw, for example. The Hawks drafted the scrappy forward during the summer of 2011, and he surged through the system to make his NHL debut Jan. 5, 2012.
Since then, Shaw has not seen the Hawks’ Stanley Cup ring from 2010. He hasn’t asked. Besides, it’s not as if the veterans wear their diamond-studded rings to the practice rink.
But Shaw is friends with Los Angeles Kings forward Brad Richardson, who hails from Shaw’s hometown of Belleville, Ontario. After the Kings won the Stanley Cup last season, Richardson threw a party and showed Shaw his gleaming ring.
“It just gave me that drive to want to win my own,” said Shaw, who has scored four goals in the playoffs. “It’s pretty amazing. That thing is huge. You can’t miss it if you’re wearing one.”
You can’t miss it, all right.
The Hawks’ championship rings from the 2009-10 season featured 14-carat white gold with diamonds that formed the head of the familiar Blackhawk Indian on the team’s sweaters. Estimated to be worth about $30,000 apiece, the rings included 404 diamonds and had engravings of the Hawks’ four playoff opponents and series outcomes en route to the Cup.
Hawks defenseman Nick Leddy enjoyed an up-close view of the rings when he attended the team’s annual fan convention before the start of the 2010-11 season. The rings were unbelievable, Leddy said, but not nearly as valuable as quizzing the players who won them.
“Talking to them about their experiences, you just want to experience it yourself,” said Leddy, whose last championship came in the form of a 2009 Minnesota Class 2A state title as a defenseman for Eden Prairie High School.
Maybe some teenage kid is making plans right now to watch Game 1.
Maybe next summer, the Hawks will draft that same teenage kid.
Hey, it could happen.
Three years ago, Saad was that kid, watching the Hawks on a TV in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Leddy was that kid, fresh off of his freshman year with the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Shaw was that kid, hoping for some team to discover him in the Ontario Hockey League.
Now, they’re four wins from a ring – and a memory – to last a lifetime.
“It’s something you drive for as a kid,” Shaw said. “You always want to win that ring and hoist that Stanley Cup. But we’ve still got a long road ahead of us here.”
• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @tcmusick.