Hard work, balancing act by Quenneville pays off in another Stanley Cup for Blackhawks

Chicago TribuneJune 28, 2013 

— By the time Joel Quenneville finally boarded the Blackhawks team plane after their cathartic Stanley Cup celebration, the champagne on his suit had dried but adrenaline still coursed through his veins.

Even around 2 a.m. Tuesday, Quenneville still felt like chatting about his team achieving the hardest trophy in sports to win, the one he used to dream about hoisting as a kid learning the game in the Riverside Minor Hockey Association in Windsor, Ontario.

So the first call Quenneville made after winning his second Cup went to the person who would understand most what the championship meant to him. He knew the number by heart. Gloria Quenneville has lived on St. Mary's Boulevard since Joel grew his first mustache.

"My mum watched most of the playoff games by herself but on that night she had all the kids and their husbands and wives and said, 'It was unbelievable,"" said Quenneville, who has two brothers and two sisters. "I'm so happy they got to celebrate at the house. She said they all went crazy and were dancing.

"They later told me my mum had the best time of her life. At the end, my mum said, 'I think I might have had too much to drink.""

The former St. Louis Blues coach laughed heartily sharing the story of his 81-year-old mother getting tipsy toasting his success. A Stanley Cup hangover indeed.

How many people in Chicago can relate during days full of imbibing that turned into an impromptu Blackhawks Convention culminating with Friday's parade? Before it ends, raise a glass to the most level-headed legend a sports city could want, a hockey lifer who humbly acknowledged the history he made becoming only Chicago's fourth coach of a major pro sports team to win multiple titles.

Phil Jackson of the Bulls, George Halas of the Bears and Frank Chance of the Cubs are the others.

"I don't know about the rarity," Quenneville said. "This was one of those years so much fun you say, 'Wow, what a year.' So many special moments here -- that's what I enjoy. I don't think about the other things."

In a market like Chicago, others will. The way Quenneville embodies the image the city embraces -- a rugged yet regular guy regarded as a winner -- increases his Q rating. Yet asked Thursday whether he would try to supplement his income through endorsements a la Mike Ditka circa 1986, Quenneville practically answered in a whisper.

"I'm not worried about that stuff," Quenneville said. "I'm just happy here."

Here where the Quennevilles feel a sense of belonging in a Hinsdale neighborhood full of friends forgiven for decorating his yard with toilet paper. Here where the Blackhawks shrewdly signed Quenneville as a pro scout in September 2008, beginning a five-year plan that would have sounded silly to say out loud. Here where Quenneville began the season within one bad losing streak of losing his job and ended it with an offseason contract extension a matter of when, not if.

"There's no one else I'd rather have coaching this group," general manager Stan Bowman reiterated Thursday.

Almost everybody in the Hawks dressing room would concur. Quenneville's appeal goes beyond his consistent preparation and uncanny knack for juggling lines at the right time. Players appreciate the way Quenneville strikes the balance between giving them space and attention. Patrick Sharp praised Quenneville during the Stanley Cup Final for helping him "not only on the ice but in my personal life." Playing 803 NHL games taught Quenneville where the line exists and when to cross it.

"I'm very respectful of the separation, where they're at and where I'm at," Quenneville said.

It helps that Quenneville communicates clear goals for each player in quarterly meetings. The first one establishes individual roles. The rest serve as hockey report cards. No Hall of Fame coach grades on the curve.

"Sometimes with older guys, you get good feedback that's healthy for the process," Quenneville said. "Or sometimes you might have other meetings when you need to get their attention."

No such meeting happened when Quenneville benched Viktor Stalberg for parts of the playoffs. Sometimes, Quenneville the taskmaster still prefers strong actions over words.

"I approached him but we didn't talk," Stalberg said.

Since beating the Bruins in the most dramatic Cup Final-clinching game ever, Quenneville has been chattier than ever thanking people and deflecting praise. But the trademark mask of intensity behind the glass has been replaced by a relaxed, funny exterior his family recognized seeing Quenneville cavort with the Cup.

"My kids tell me I'm a goofball," Quenneville said. "They were showing me with the Cup, what I was doing. I was like, 'I did that?""

Thanks to the resilient team Coach Q coaxed to another title, that wasn't the hardest thing to believe this week on the ice.

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