Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews may wear the “C” on his jersey, but no member of the organization was looked to more for leadership, inspiration and a kick in the hockey pads than defenseman Brent Seabrook, who is ending his NHL career after 15 seasons.
Seabrook, who made the announcement Friday, hasn’t been on the ice for the Blackhawks since Dec. 2019, but make no mistake: he was the heart and soul of a team that won three Stanley Cups and came painfully close to winning a fourth during his tenure.
While players like Toews and Patrick Kane grabbed the headlines and helped bring the Blackhawks out of the dark ages and into the glory days, Seabrook was just as important to the development and ascension of the club as anyone. Drafted in 2003 by the Blackhawks, Seabrook saw first-hand just how rough things were with the organization, toiling away in relative obscurity as the team played its games in front of a largely-empty United Center and away from the glare of television cameras.
As Seabrook began to find his footing in the NHL, reinforcements arrived. During the 2007-08 season, Kane and Toews both arrived on the scene, and Seabrook found his scoring touch, with nine goals and 23 assists as the Blackhawks started to grab the attention of the Chicago sports scene.
In the years that followed, Seabrook’s statistics continued to improve, and so did the Blackhawks. Ultimately the team won the 2010 Stanley Cup, their first in nearly half a century, and Seabrook was right there in the thick of it, picking up 11 points in 22 postseason games and finishing 13th in Norris Trophy voting, the highest he would ever climb in that category.
It was at this time that Seabrook began to establish who he was, and what he ultimately meant to the organization. He was always the guy firing up his teammates as they walked down the tunnel toward the ice before games, and his fiery leadership was an incredible contrast to the lead-by-example, quiet intensity approach displayed by Toews in his role as captain.
That ability to inspire was never more apparent than in Game 4 of the 2013 Western Conference Semifinal against the Detroit Red Wings. Furious with himself after committing his third penalty in the game, Toews skated to the Joe Louis Arena penalty box, dejected and hanging his head. Fans will always remember that it was Seabrook who skated over to the box, gave the captain some words of encouragement, and then went to work killing off the penalty, a true masterclass in leadership and impactful action.
The Blackhawks did lose that game, but they won the next three, erasing a three games to one deficit in the process. It was there that Seabrook showed another side to his incredible game, as he let his play do the talking:
Aside from the goals that won the Blackhawks their Stanley Cups, this was perhaps the greatest moment of the team’s run at the top of the league. In one incredible shot, Seabrook ended the Blackhawks’ painful record against the Red Wings, finished off a remarkable series comeback, and propelled the team to what would ultimately be their second Stanley Cup title in four seasons.
Seabrook would have more great moments in his career, including the game-winning overtime goal against the Boston Bruins in Game 4 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, but none summed up his legacy better than that moment.
For now, the Blackhawks will be left to celebrate Seabrook’s legacy, and there’s only one appropriate way to do it. When fans are allowed back in the United Center, and when the roar of the crowd once again echoes through the building, Seabrook’s number 7 jersey should be hoisted to the rafters (preferably alongside that of Chris Chelios, who is also deserving of the honor), and his accomplishments should be celebrated with 21,000 of his closest friends in attendance.
He deserves that roar, and he deserves his place among the most impactful players to ever slip on the Blackhawks’ jersey.