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Blackhawks Wed Nov 12 2008

Hawks honor heroes, battle Bruins

In what's already shaping up as an electric night at the United Center as the Blackhawks welcome an equally-resurgent Original 6 franchise in the Boston Bruins to town, an added layer of excitement will permeate the Madhouse on Madison tonight.

The reason? A number-retirement ceremony, long overdue for many Hawks fans, for former defensemen Pierre Pilote and Keith Magnuson, who both wore #3 during their Chicago tenure.

Pilote and Magnuson defined the prototypical Blackhawks defensemen of their respective eras, providing leadership, physical grit, and hard-nosed hockey along the blue line. Both served as captains and are associated with the golden years of Hawks hockey, and it's a fitting tribute that both will receive the honor of being the sixth jersey retired by the organization tonight.

Pilote spent 13 years as a member of the Blackhawks, and during that time won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defensemen 3 years in a row, one of only 4 players to do so. His 400 assists are second-all time for Hawks defensemen, and he's enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, leaving many to believe the jersey retirement ceremony is long overdue.

Magnuson was a stay-at-home defenseman who didn't put up the same offensive numbers as Pilote, but his passion and grit on the ice made him the face of the franchise and a fan favorite in the 1970s, as shown by his 1,442 career penalty minutes. Magnuson also became a Hawks coach upon his retirement, and kept close ties to the organization as the president of the Blackhawks Alumni Association after his player days were over. Tragically, Magnuson didn't live to see this honor bestowed upon him, dying in an automobile accident in 2003, but will be representated by his family in what's sure to include an emotional outpouring on the ice from Hawks fans.

If there's one thing demonstrated by the Hawks organization during last year's tributes to fellow jersey retirees Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, and Tony Esposito, it's that Chicago handles these events with the utmost honor and respect, and tonight's ceremony should be a sight to behold. Comcast Sportsnet will be broadcasting the entire festivities, as well as the following game, so fans not attending will still get a chance to see the spectacle.

Meanwhile, the game itself promises to be an equally exciting tilt between the two revitalized franchises. While the Hawks are off to their best start in 7 years, the Bruins have compiled an equally impressive 8-3-3 mark, and have won 6 of their last 7 games behind strong defense and the emerging talent of Phil Kessel and Marc Savard. While the Hawks have yet to lose in regulation at home, going 6-0-2, the B's will provide a stiff test for a young team that may be overwhelmed by the ghosts of the past. Suffice to say though, seeing the history of the franchise on proud dispaly will be a huge motivating factor to earn a W for Pilote and Maggie.

 
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