Patrick Kane was surprised to hear Corey Crawford announce his retirement from the NHL on Saturday, saying the goalie was “still playing at a super-high level” for the Chicago Blackhawks last season.
“I’m not going to speak for him as to what went into his decision, why he decided to retire, but everyone has their reasons,” the Blackhawks forward said. “Just what we saw from him last year, he was unbelievable in the second half of the season and the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs and the past 10 years. He played at such a high level consistently and was a big reason for our success.”
Crawford agreed to a two-year, $7.8 million contract with the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 11 after playing 13 seasons for the Blackhawks from 2005-20.
The 36-year-old, who won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015, had not practiced at Devils training camp since Jan. 1 and was granted a leave of absence Friday.
He was 260-162-53 with a 2.45 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and 26 shutouts in 488 regular-season games and is third on Chicago’s wins list. Crawford won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015.
“Just his excitement and him throwing off his mask and seeing how excited he was as we were mobbing him after we won,” Kane said. “It was always fun to see and relive those moments.
“He was always in a good mood, even when he was [ticked] off. If he got hit in the wrong place in practice or hit in the head or shots up high, he seemed to always be [ticked] off for a little bit and then you could see him smiling through his mask. Same thing off the ice. He always seemed to be in a good mood, always seemed to be a guy you could joke around with and make fun of, and same thing, give [it] back to you.”
Crawford, who missed 80 games the previous two seasons because of concussions, was 16-20-3 with a 2.77 GAA, .917 save percentage and one shutout in 40 games (39 starts) last season. He was 52-42 with a 2.38 GAA, .918 save percentage and five shutouts in 96 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
“I’ve known Corey since we were juniors,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “… I don’t know the circumstances for him, but you want everyone to have the opportunity to play as long as they want to. He was a huge part of the Blackhawks’ success and I certainly enjoyed coaching him. It always makes the coach look better when the goaltender is stopping the pucks. Obviously, I’ll be reaching out to him later, but wishing him and his family the best here.”
Crawford’s second-to-last game in the NHL was one of his best. He made 48 saves in Chicago’s 3-1 win against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 4 of the Western Conference First Round. Vegas eliminated Chicago in Game 5 of the best-of-7 series.
“It feels recently there were so many times where he played so good and kept us in games where maybe we weren’t at our best or the other team was coming at us hard and he was weathering the storm for us,” Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. “That’s the biggest thing I remember about him as a player and a teammate is the fact that you knew he was going to make those big saves and keep us in it. He was the No. 1 goalie here for a long time and gave exactly that for a long time.”
Goalie Collin Delia said Crawford was great to him.
“He was cordial, very friendly, a really good friend,” Delia said. “I think that’s a hallmark of him and his personality: He truly cared about the guys, the younger guys especially. He was always there to lend an ear if you wanted to talk about something. Talking the game with him, he kept it really simple, and that was good for me just coming into the League. To watch him do that night in and night out and talk about it, he really understood his game and helped me understand what I needed to do.”
The Blackhawks have not said if they will sign Crawford to a one-day contract so he can officially retire as a member of the team. They last did that on Oct. 4, 2017, for forward Bryan Bickell. But Colliton said it doesn’t matter.
“He’s a Blackhawk,” he said. “He’ll be remembered as a Blackhawk. Whether they do something or not, he’s a Blackhawk.”