CHICAGO (CBS) — Joel Quenneville – recently named the NHL’s Coach of the Decade – returned to the United Center with the Florida Panthers Tuesday night.
Quenneville will take on his former team, the Blackhawks, for the first time since he was fired.
Coach Q, of course, was revered – one letter was enough to know whom you were talking about. He is also the winningest coach in ’Hawks history, leading them to nine straight playoff appearances and three Stanley Cup titles.
Quenneville could not wipe the smile off his face on Tuesday as he addressed reporters.
“It feels good. It’s a good feeling seeing all you people here today, but walking in and seeing some of the trainers, and eventually seeing some of the players and the fans, so it brings back a special time in our lives and a special time with the city, going through some amazing runs that are so memorable,” he said.
Tuesday night will be a matchup of two teams on five-game winning streaks. It is also the last game before the NHL All-Star break.
It was sure to be an emotional night, not just for Quenneville, but for the Blackhawks players.
“I think it’ll be a little weird for all of us playing against him. I’m sure he’ll have a lot of emotions coming back here too, and you know he’s going to get a warm reception. He was like so loved here in Chicago, and he’s like an icon,” said Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane.
“I owe him a lot for sticking with me and doing that. You know, he was a good coach, and I think guys really liked him in here, and you know, it was tough to see him leave,” said Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford.
“I think what made Joel great was his intensity,” said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. “You know, every time we’d come the ice for a win, we always said there’s nobody who loves winning more than he does – and I mean, I think that’s the truth.”
The Blackhawks were set to honor Coach Q with a video board presentation.