This David's a Goliath

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:20 AM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- Three years ago, David Bolland was a no-name on the Windy City sports scene.

Back then, the Chicago Blackhawks still looked like a franchise heading nowhere.

"I remember the first time I was there (at the United Center), the team was drawing crowds of 5 to 10,000 people," Bolland said, "and there were whole empty patches in the stands.

"It wasn't like it is now."

Now, it's like show biz. The Stanley Cup drive changed everything. Puck passion is back. The Madhouse on Madison is as loud and proud as Chicago Stadium in its heyday. And Chi-town's hockey heroes like Bolland are big stuff right now.

"I've noticed a difference," the Blackhawks forward and former London Knight said. "When you walk down the street now, you're recognized by more people."

In Bolland, they see the guy who scored big shorthanded breakaway goals and raised his stick in celebration right in front of glass-pounding movie star and Hawks fan Vince Vaughn.

Every powerhouse team needs its celebrity supporters, right?

"Always," Bolland said. "He's been around a lot. He's been in the room with us and it's been great. A great guy."

Popularity, in Hollywood or hockey, is fueled by momentum.

Bolland's capitalized on his new fame. After tangling with big Joe Thornton of San Jose and shutting down Vancouver's Sedin twins in the playoffs, he's regarded as a prominent two-way centre in the NHL.

He didn't get Conn Smythe buzz, but he should have.

"Playing against Joe, that was just so much fun," he said. "You look at the other series against Vancouver and Philly and it was more of a line matchup thing. (Chicago coach Joel Quenneville) didn't have to (spell out his assignment) and it got to the point where I knew when the other team's top players were out there, I was going to be on the ice."

It's a heavy responsibility.

But it gave Bolland the chance to build up a healthy reputation as a show-stopper who can score, too (eight goals and 16 points in 22 playoff games).

He's hoping to take his game to the next level. He wants to be considered for Canada at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

"That's a goal of mine. An Olympic gold is the one thing I haven't won yet (he has the Cup, a Memorial Cup with London and world junior gold) and I'd like to get that chance someday. I saw Corey (former Knights teammate Corey Perry) out there winning in Vancouver and it would be a great opportunity."

Being the spark for a cross-Canada party would be hard to top. But the Cup parade in downtown Chicago that attracted two million this summer was special, too.

"Pretty crazy," Bolland said. "It's hard to believe. It was a little bit bigger than London (in 2005). When Pat (Kane scored the Cup-clincher in Game 6), I was just getting off the ice. I turned and looked and didn't know where the puck was. When I found out it was in, I was stunned."

Bolland gets his one day with the Cup on Sept. 3.

"I'll bring it to a friend's house for a private party (and then the Blue Goose Tavern)," he said, "and we'll probably have a parade down the one street in Mimico."

He'll be a big draw when he returns to London for the charity 4-on-4 game Aug. 19 at the JLC.

But he can give his defensive skills a break in that one. There's no way one guy can keep a lid on this group of goal scorers.

The confirmed list of former Knights include Columbus captain Rick Nash, Corey Perry and new Anaheim Ducks mate Danny Syvret, New York Islanders John Tavares (who has recovered from a stress fracture in his foot at worlds) and Rob Schremp, back-to-back Calder Cup champ John Carlson, Brandon Prust, newly married Dylan Hunter, Bryan Rodney, Drew Larman, Adam Perry and future Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri.

"It's going to be fun," Bolland said. "It always is coming back to London. I love coming back in the summer."

There will be 12 players on each team. Michael Hutchinson and Michael Houser will play in net. The Knights are working at landing Steve Mason, too. The game will end in a shootout for Schremp to show off his skills.

"For some of the older guys, I think it's really special because some of them didn't get to play at the John Labatt Centre," said assistant GM Jim McKellar. "I think this is the first time Rick Nash will play a game at the JLC."

KNIGHTS' CHARITY FOUR-ON-FOUR GAME

When: Thursday, Aug. 19, 7 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre.

Tickets: $15; on sale now at the JLC box office. Call 519-681-0800.

Supports: Special Olympics Summer Games.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ryanpyette


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