CHICAGO - Kevin Cheveldayoff didn’t spend much time looking up at the rafters inside the United Center and staring at the 2010 Stanley Cup banner on Thursday.
Back in the Windy City as the general manager of the Winnipeg Jets, the former Chicago Blackhawks assistant GM made the rounds and talked to plenty of old friends.
But at the end of the day, this was a business trip.
“It is a very special time,” Cheveldayoff said. “Anytime you can come back to where you won a championship, it is special. The culture in this organization is a lot like our culture with the Winnipeg Jets.
“The memories are important and I have the ring and all of the special things that go with it, but there’s so many things happening. It’s exciting but the events are all over. This is about hockey and obviously each and every night it’s about the two points.”
Cheveldayoff worked for the Blackhawks for two seasons, but spent another 12 running the Chicago Wolves and leading them to four championships, two in the International Hockey League and another two in the American Hockey League.
Cheveldayoff clearly remembers his initial encounters with Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman before he was hired.
“We talked on a personal level quite extensively and our personalities seemed to click pretty well,” Cheveldayoff said. “One of the things I told him first off, I looked him straight in the eye and said ‘I want to be a general manager in this league but I don’t want your job.’
“From that point on, we understood each other.”
When the Jets called the Blackhawks for permission to speak with Cheveldayoff this summer, Bowman wasn’t about to say no.
“I knew at some point he was going to get an opportunity,” Bowman said. “He’s a very bright guy, he’s very capable and deserving of a chance. He certainly worked his way up and paid his dues, so to speak. The time was right for him.
“He’s a humble guy and his work ethic is unmatched. But he’s also very bright and he treats people fairly. Personality-wise, he’s got the right balance but he’s also got some really good insight and has experience running teams.”
KEITH REFLECTS: The return of the Jets has made Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith remember a few trips to the Winnipeg Arena.
“There’s a lot of good memories of going to Jets games when I was a kid, so playing them now is a pretty neat feeling,” said Keith, who was born in Winnipeg. “It was always fun to watch (Keith) Tkachuk, (Alexei) Zhamnov and (Teemu) Selanne.
“I remember that big picture of the Queen and going down along the glass for the warm-ups. We would sneak down there and then get kicked out and have to go up to the nosebleeds by the time the game started.”
One of those trips allowed Keith to see Wayne Gretzky as a member of the Los Angeles Kings.
“It was my first game and that was pretty neat. I only got to go to a handful of games and that was one that stuck out in my mind,” Keith said. “I vaguely remember the fans giving Gretzky a standing ovation.”
TOEWS’ TAKE: Blackhawks captain and Winnipegger Jonathan Toews recounted a funny story about the Jets after the morning skate on Thursday.
“I was probably seven or eight years old and I remember a friend of mine who lived down the street was asking his dad why he didn’t just buy the Winnipeg Jets,” Toews said. “I don’t remember what his dad said. But I went home and asked my dad the same thing.
“He probably just brushed it off and made up a story.”