Musick: For Hawks' Versteeg, it's deja vu (plus a 'do)
CHICAGO – Kris Versteeg unveiled a new haircut Wednesday.
The Blackhawks’ winger had his hair closely shaved along the sides and in the back. On top of his head, a patch of floppy blonde hair remained.
“I call it the ‘Stigglemore,’ ” Versteeg said. “It’s a mix between myself, Macklemore and a little bit of anything else in between. So, it’s got a lot going on here.”
Lord Stanley, meet Stigglemore. Stigglemore, meet Lord Stanley.
If anyone can balance crazy hair with a seriously effective playoff performance, it’s Versteeg. He might be the most grateful player on the ice Thursday when the Hawks visit the St. Louis Blues for Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals.
Because Versteeg, 27, never thought he would be in this spot with this team again. He was part of the Hawks’ Stanley Cup championship team in 2010, only to be traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs three weeks later as part of a salary-cap dump.
In the three seasons that followed, Versteeg bounced from the Maple Leafs to the Philadelphia Flyers, and then from the Flyers to the Florida Panthers. His journey came full circle in mid-November when the Hawks reacquired him from the Panthers in exchange for young players Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen.
Now that Versteeg is back with the Hawks, he’s taking nothing for granted.
“I know probably better than anyone that you never know when you might get traded and how much time you might have [with a team],” said Versteeg, who has scored 102 career goals in seven seasons. “So you’ve got to make it always count.
“Stuff can happen so fast, and you’ve really got to take care of your body and understand that every time you pull over an NHL sweater, no matter where it is, that it’s special. And especially when you come back to somewhere like here, it makes it that much more special, really.”
Versteeg can come across as a bit Hollywood at times, which should not surprise anyone who saw his rap celebration on stage at the 2010 Stanley Cup celebration. But the past few months have shown that he can be a selfless teammate and a versatile player who can play on any line and serve almost any role necessary.
On Wednesday, Versteeg practiced alongside Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad. After rejoining the Hawks, he notched 10 goals with 19 assists in 63 games.
“[He’s] been with us and understands what it takes, obviously,” Hawks general manager Stan Bowman said after the deal. “He’s been through the grind of a playoff and he understands the sacrifices you have to make as a player. …
“Here, he has the ability to move around in our lineup, and I think that flexibility is something that gives the coaching staff a lot of options.”
Versteeg’s teammates appreciate his influence on and off the ice.
“He’s been a great guy in the locker room since he’s joined our team again,” Hawks forward Patrick Sharp said. “It feels like he’s never left. I know he’s comfortable here in Chicago and he played some of his best hockey in 2010 in the playoffs, so hopefully he can do that again this year.”
Sharp’s memory proved to be, well, sharp.
In the Hawks’ championship run four years ago, Versteeg scored three goals against the Vancouver Canucks, one goal against the San Jose Sharks and two goals against the Flyers. He finished the playoffs with 14 points and a plus-4 rating in 22 games.
Versteeg was a kid back then, a 23-year-old who had no idea what would come next.
“Last time was definitely a blur,” Versteeg said. “You remember bits and pieces, and you’ve got to kind of watch stuff to really remember it because you were so young and it went so fast.”
This time, Versteeg has greater perspective.
Not to mention a Stigglemore.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.