New Blackhawks forward Tommy Wingels isn’t really a new face to Chicago.
The New Trier graduate , born in Evanston and raised in Wilmette, grew up about as big a Hawks fan as you’ll find. Like a lot of Hawks fans, he suffered through the days when then-owner Bill Wirtz blacked out home games from local television.
When he was a member of the Sharks organization, Wingels couldn’t help but feel a little pride in 2010, when the Hawks won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1961.
“I remember the night they won, I was just sitting in my bedroom (in the Gold Coast),” Wingels said. “We had a little balcony, and you could just hear the city erupt. People in the street, people celebrating. I’ll never forget that moment, just being in the city while it happened. Got to see the parade and everything.”
Now Wingels, 29, is getting the chance to create some excitement of his own with his hometown team. He signed a one-year deal with the Hawks on Saturday and figures to be a bottom-six forward this season.
Wingels has 53 goals and 73 assists in his career after playing most of his seven seasons with the Sharks.
He said he is here to add a physical presence the Hawks felt was lacking in their first-round playoff exit against the Predators.
“I’m a guy who is expected to bring energy, bring a compete level, play a straight-line game and get into the dirty areas,” Wingels said. “More important is getting to that hard area in the blue paint; that’s where goals are mostly scored. Watching how the team fared in the playoffs, that’s a piece that was missing.”
Wingels’ best seasons were in 2013-14 and 2014-15, when he scored 16 and 15 goals. He saw a significant dip in his ice time last season with the Sharks, playing just more than 10 minutes a game before they traded him to the Senators.
But Wingels said he can be a good fit for what the Hawks have on the roster.
“It’s about role players and guys further down the lineup stepping up,” Wingels said. “And I can be one of those guys who really helps out, whether it’s as a penalty killer, an energy guy, a checker — I can contribute in a few ways.”
It will carry a little extra weight playing for his favorite team.
“It’s incredible that you can’t take a couple steps around Chicago without someone wearing Blackhawks gear, or you can’t talk about hockey without talking about the Chicago Blackhawks,” Wingels said. “I’m very fortunate for this opportunity to play for the Blackhawks, but I hope it’s going to be more than that, more than just a good story.”