Kyle Beach had a front row seat for the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup Championship run.
The left winger was one of nine Rockford IceHogs recalled to the Blackhawks to serve on the reserve squad during the march to the championship.
Beach took advantage of the opportunity to watch the Hawks players closely and came away from the experience with new insight into a Stanley Cup Champion NHL athlete’s approach to the game both at home and on the road.
“The guys are in bed by 10 o’clock, in the rooms, you don’t see anybody in the hotel. They’re eating healthy. They’re not out, they’re not goofing around, they’re not relaxing on days off —they’re preparing,” Beach said.
But Beach saw more than just the routines of the Blackhawk skaters. He also observed their reactions.
“Watching them prepare, watching them win, watching them right after they win — it’s unbelievable,” Beach said. “Watching them right after they lose, it’s just as unbelievable. They’re already looking at what they did wrong and they’re already thinking about the next one.
“I mean, just having been there, that’s an experience that I wouldn’t want to trade for anything, it’s a chance of a lifetime.”
At Prospect Camp in Chicago on Friday, July 9, Beach was already looking to build on his experiences with the Hawks.
“Everybody’s here. Everybody’s watching right now and it’s a great chance to show them where I’m at right now,” Beach said. “It’s not going to get any easier from here, from the end of September all the way through until next July, the end of next season. It’s very important for me. I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to get this opportunity.”
That opportunity does come with a certain amount of responsibility, though. At 20 years old, Beach was already one of the veterans in the 2010 Prospect Camp. And he did not take the position lightly.
“Hopefully as much as I’m here for myself to get better and to show the Blackhawks I’m ready, I can help some of the young guys and kind of bring them through the steps that I’ve come through already,” Beach said.
But with the Blackhawks trimming the roster to accommodate the salary cap, Beach acknowledged that Prospect Camp was not all about helping each other improve. Roster spots may be up for grabs, and the skaters in line for them are taking any opportunity to showcase their skills seriously.
“Everybody knows there are spots. There are about five to 10 guys who are wanting those spots. We knew who we are and they know who they are,” Beach said. “Everybody’s going to come to camp wanting to fill the spots.
“I’m going to do whatever I can to do that and I know they’re going to do everything they can to do that.”
Though Beach may have ended the 2009-10 campaign with Chicago, his season began with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL. There, the Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada native led the WHL and Spokane in goals with 52 in 68 games. He tied the team lead with nine points in the postseason and lead Spokane with seven playoff goals.
For his efforts, Beach was named to the WHL Western Conference First All-Star Team.
Beach made his IceHogs season debut in April and scored his first professional goal in Rockford’s 3-1 loss the Texas in Game 2 of the West Division semifinals. He tallied two more goals in Game 4 of the series.
With the IceHogs knocked out in the first round of the playoffs, Beach headed to Chicago where he saw first hand what it takes to win a Stanley Cup.
And while his ultimate goal is to do just that in the NHL, the winger knows his path to get there might make another stop in Rockford.
“Obviously I’d love to be in the NHL, but if I have to spend a couple years or a year in Rockford first, it’s only going to help my development,” Beach said. “It’s a great city. They’ve got a great coach in Bill Peters, a great assistant coach in Ted Dent, and I think they have a great team, they have great systems. They expect and demand the best out of you night in and night out.”
With the juniors behind him, Beach is focusing on hockey like a full time job. Hockey is still fun for Beach, but it’s no longer “fun and games.”
“This is how people make their living and I want to make my living doing this as well,” Beach said. “In order to do that you’re going to have to grow up, you’re going to have to mature, and you’re going to have to handle yourself as a professional on and off the ice.
“That’s really what I tried to focus on this year as far as off the ice, and I think I’ve made good strides in doing that.”
More from Beach at Prospect Camp:
Does your approach to Prospect Camp change knowing that there are open roster spots in Chicago?
“Obviously it’s in the back of your mind. It’s an exciting time, a little bit more motivation. But at the same time, all I can do is work my hardest, be in the best shape possible come September, do everything I can to prepare myself, and hopefully everything else will take of itself as long as I take care of business.”
Is this camp an opportunity?
“Absolutely it is. I mean, I’m here right now. I’m one of the older kids here now. That gives me a chance to help the young guys, a chance to prove myself, and that’s going to motivate me even more. I know some of the college kids came in here and absolutely dominated the testing. You know, come September, I want to be the one dominating the testing. It’s good to be here, good to see the guys, good competition, see what we have in the system.”
What are your thoughts on the new guys in camp?
“A lot of the young guys look really good. They’re in great shape, they’re working hard. Some of them did really well in fitness testing. On the ice, guys are wheeling around, guys are making plays, hitting. It’s good to see. The scouting staff always does a great job here in Chicago, and to see the draft picks that they brought in, it’s a great opportunity.”
What is it like to come to Prospect Camp and put on the jersey of the team that just won the Stanley Cup?
“It’s obviously a great honor for everybody here, especially myself. I was able to be a part of it, be around the team for the whole run and that was a great opportunity for me. As much as it’s just another camp, it is that much more special. The prospect shirts we got said 2010 with a Stanley Cup on it. We all got a Stanley Cup Champions hat. It’s pretty exciting. For the young guys who just got drafted, for the guys that are here as free agents, it’s a great opportunity. You know, all the changes made, there’s going to be room in this organization in Rockford and in Chicago. And we’re all here to earn a spot at mini camp and hopefully when you get there you can make your impression and hopefully stick around. So obviously with the Blackhawks being the Stanley Cup Champions, it’s that much more exciting to be here. And the city, the stands were full here for day one of Prospect Camp. I bet you don’t see that everywhere else, so it’s pretty exciting and it’s nice to see the way the city is backing us.”
What are your impressions of Rockford and the IceHogs?
They’ve got a great coach in Bill Peters, a great assistant coach in Ted Dent, and I think they have a great team, they have great systems. They expect and demand the best out of you night in and night out. They’re there to help you improve. I know Bill Peters a little bit from earlier on in my junior career, played against him all the time. He always demands the best out of his players. That’s the type of coach you need to have if you want to get better.”