SUN Hockey Pool

Yawney still taking charge

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:27 AM ET

CHICAGO -- It was, for years, the last image of the Flames in the playoffs.

Pretty much the last of Trent Yawney, too, in the Stampede City.

Until 2004, the final moment of NHL playoffs hockey in Calgary was Yawney's gaffe in Game 4 of the 1996 post-season.

The defenceman coughed up the puck in overtime and watched helplessly as the Blackhawks swept the Flames out of the playoffs, not to be seen again for eight years.

Though vilified for his miscue, Yawney also gave a select few another image, awaiting the media to accept the responsibility.

"I wasn't raised to run away and I don't coach players any differently. You find out what you have as teammates and friends in adversity," explained Yawney, now the Blackhawks head coach. "The interesting thing about all that is I've learned how to use what happened for a positive.

"I've had situations as a coach when the same thing has happened to a player not exactly the same thing but similar enough where you can say to him, 'I can relate and know how you feel.'

"It's really important for them to know that."

Displaying that honour is just one of the many lessons the former defenceman will try to pass along to the 'Hawks.

With his 40th birthday just around the corner, Yawney is finally about to embark on a challenge some around the league -- especially those who have watched the Windy City crew struggle the last couple of seasons -- feel he should have begun a lot sooner.

Having guided the AHL's Norfolk Admirals for five seasons and compiling a record that was 45 games above the .500 mark, Yawney received the promotion almost as soon as the lockout ended, replacing former Flames head coach Brian Sutter at the 'Hawks helm.

The veteran of nearly 600 NHL games, however, said his coaching career goes day by day.

"As a coach, you're learning every day because you definitely don't know everything and those extra two years didn't hurt me," he said. "I was fully prepared to coach in Norfolk another year."

Instead, though, he has the golden opportunity to guide a squad that has Chicago talking hockey again. With a young core that includes talents in Tuomo Ruutu, Kyle Calder, Mark Bell and Tyler Arnason, the Blackhawks came out of the stoppage with a vengeance.

Not only did they add former Islanders workhorse defenceman Adrian Aucoin to solidify the blueline, they signed Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin to be the last line.

"He's makes me a better coach," Yawney quipped.

The Blackhawks also brought in plenty of grit and veteran savvy with the likes of Martin Lapointe, to go with 2004 signees Matthew Barnaby, Jassen Cullimore and Curtis Brown.

Suddenly there's a buzz over what has been a downtrodden franchise and Yawney is one of many involved who can't wait to get going.

Want proof? Yawney this week was the guest singer for the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field when the Cubs faced St. Louis.

"For a while, there was nothing but negativity around this team," he said. "But with the new players we've brought in and the core in place, we're turning it around.

"When you think of the Blackhawks, you think of Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull and Tony Esposito. It was sad to see that (go).

"Now that's all changed. There's a lot of electricity around the team."


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