By Sidney Brown (@sidkid80)
Every kid dreams of making it to the professional leagues when picking up a ball, a mitt or a stick at an early age.
It was no different for Corey Crawford growing up in Canada, where every kid’s dream is to play hockey. As it would turn out, he’d play for an original six franchise and achieve success at the highest level. From there, you’d think a guy would drown in instant credibility and it would be smooth sailing from there — that was not the case for Crawford as he had to battle criticism not only from experts and opponents, but from a fair amount of fans from Hawks Nation.
In his rookie season (2011), Crawford won 33 games in net and help the Hawks to a near historic comeback series win against the hated Vancouver Canucks in the postseason. The following season was filled with up and downs that concluded with an opening round exit courtesy of the Arizona Coyotes.
In 2013, with the now late Ray Emery added to the roster, the competition was fierce and Crawford rose to the occasion by winning the William Jennings Trophy for Outstanding Goaltender and helping lead the Hawks to their second Stanley Cup in four seasons with a 1.84 Goals Against Average, which was clearly worthy of a Conn Smythe Trophy (Playoff MVP), but voters had Patrick Kane in mind.
In 2015, Crawford posted 32 wins in the regular season, but his late season struggles carried over to the first round match-up against the Nashville Predators where he was pulled in Game 1, but “Crow” rebounded when he was inserted back in net in Game 6 to close out that series.
That year’s Stanley Cup Final series saw the Hawks square up against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Corey once again rose to the challenge opposite Tampa’s Ben Bishop, helping the Men in Red capture their third cup in six years and securing a winning legacy for himself and his teammates in Chicago.
Not much would come to follow as the Hawks struggled the next few seasons and so did Crawford, due to various injuries. Crow posted only 16 wins in 2018 and 14 in 2019. In his final season in Chicago, Crawford posted a 16-20-3 record with a 2.77 GAA.
Still, Crawford definitely had plenty of highlight moments over the years, his very last could be marked in his Game 4 performance (46 saves) in the 2020 playoff series against the Las Vegas Golden Knights — a game to be added to the likes of Game 6 at Detroit in 2013 (after allowing a soft goal in the second period), Game 4 against Tampa Bay in 2015 and the unforgettable fight versus the Kings in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals in 2012 where he defended Jonathan Toews.
No matter the obstacles that stood in Crawford’s way, he stood tall and faced them head on while leading the Hawks to success in the 2010’s. Crow’s play in net was one of the consistent by-products of the Hawks’ championship era, just as important as a Jonathan Toews’ goal or a Patrick Kane spin-o-rama, an Andrew Shaw monster hit or a Marion Hossa penalty kill, an Adam Burish fight or a Patrick Sharp assist.
Many Hawks fans watched intently during Crawford’s career but few realize the sacrifice and hard work that an athlete like him puts in everyday to reach their full potential, risking injuries both short and long term all along the way.
Why the Blackhawks Should Retire Corey Crawford’s Jersey (NBC Sports Chicago)
Crawford battled through it all and left it all on the ice for his teammates and the Hawks organization. My hope is that Corey will FINALLY get the respect that he deserves in his retirement as sometimes fans truly don’t know what they got until it was gone. Corey Crawford’s impact in net ranks among the best goalies in Hawks history and that can’t be argued.
To Mr. Crawford, I say SALUTE to a great career and thanks for the great memories, along with the Stanley Cups.
Sidney Brown covers the Chicago Blackhawks for WARR