Bryan Bickell played in more than 200 games for the Rockford IceHogs, totaling 115 points with the team. This year's Rockford locker room held bittersweet emotions after Bickell's retirement from hockey this past weekend.
"It's hard not to get choked up."
"We spent a lot of time with him here and wish him the best obviously in his recovery."
The outpouring of support for Bryan Bickell, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, came as no surprise to his former teammates and coaches.
"It just shows you what a great guy Bicks is," said IceHogs captain Jake Dowell. "How much he's meant to all of the people he's played with in his career, he's had an unbelievable career."
"Last year when he was here, he had a good attitude and worked hard," said IceHogs head coach Ted Dent. "Tough situation obviously being here but he takes everything in stride, doesn't get too high, too low or stressed out. That's his personality, that helped a lot when he was here last year."
The two-time Stanley Cup champion's sudden departure after his MS diagnosis provided a change in perspective for this year's IceHogs, who will miss the postseason.
"He doesn't get to play next year. Other guys that may be feeling down, myself included, throw me in that mix, you wonder where or what's next in a career," said Dowell. "Seeing someone like that doesn't get a chance to play next year, it makes you count your blessings and realize how cool it is what we get to do everyday."
That really resonates for the IceHogs captain, whose had his own close medical call with a negative Huntington's disease test.
"I was that close to finding out if i had something similar to MS. To watch Bicks and his family deal with it now, I definitely send my prayers and thoughts to him and his family. I definitely feel for him because I could've been in his shoes very easily."
The IceHogs are sad to see Bryan Bickell hang up his skates, but have a daily reminder of his achievements when they walk out to a rink their old teammate once made his own - a mural of Blackhawks Stanley Cup champions lining the hallway outside the locker room.