Chicago Blackhawks fans will have to get used to seeing Chris Kunitz around the team going forward. No, he is not returning for another season on the ice. In fact, he officially announced his retirement from the National Hockey League on Tuesday morning, but he will be staying on with the organization. Kunitz will take on a new role as player development advisor, assisting both the Blackhawks and Rockford Icehogs coaching staffs.
Kunitz’s Legacy Speaks for Itself
While Kunitz’s lone season in Chicago was forgettable, with just five goals and 10 points in 56 games, his legacy speaks for itself. He scored 268 goals and 619 points in 1,022 career games with the Anaheim Ducks, Atlanta Thrashers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Blackhawks.
Kunitz had seven seasons with at least 20 goals, including a career-high 35 tallies for the Penguins in 2013-14. He proved to be a key player when it came to the postseason. In 178 career Stanley Cup playoff games, Kunitz scored 27 goals and 93 points.
For the last two seasons, Kunitz was the only active player who won four Stanley Cups. The first one came with the Ducks in 2007 and he was a member of all three recent Penguins championship teams in 2009, 2016 and 2017.
His best playoff performance came in 2009 when he had 13 assists on the way to the Cup; only Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin had more on the team. Penguins fans will always be grateful for his double-overtime goal versus the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Final, which sent the team to their second straight Stanley Cup Final.
“I don’t think it really matters who scores,” Kunitz said following the win. “I think we’re all just happy that the game is ended and we’re on the top side of it and that we get to go play for another Stanley Cup. I think it’s something that takes work from everybody on the ice to be able to score a goal.”
That was the type of quote you’d expect from Kunitz, who always put his team ahead of himself. He was also very grateful of all his former teammates in an official release.
“Finally, to my teammates, thank you for everything,” he wrote. “As a young player, you taught me to give my very best. Your leadership helped mold me into the player I knew I could be. I was given the opportunity to play with the very best teams and the very best players and I’m grateful for the laughs and the friendships that we shared together. Thank you for making my childhood dream come true.”
He had another memorable run in 2014 when he helped Team Canada to a Gold Medal victory at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. He even scored a goal in Canada’s 3-0 win over Sweden in the tournament’s final game.
Kunitz will be remembered most for his time with the Penguins. During his nine seasons in Pittsburgh, he scored 169 goals, which ranks ninth all-time in franchise scoring history.
Blackhawks Will Benefit from Adding Kunitz
Adding a guy with the wealth of experience Kunitz racked up is a good move by the Blackhawks. They have a rather inexperienced coaching staff, both at the NHL and AHL levels, so his vast knowledge will be a welcomed addition. Second-year head coach Jeremey Colliton, who is nearly six years younger than Kuntiz, is happy to have him on board.
“Chris had an outstanding professional career,” Colliton said. “His four Stanley Cups and Olympic gold medal speak for themselves. While coaching him last year, I recognized what an asset he would be for our staff and the organization. I’m very pleased to have him a part of our coaching group and, also, use him as a development resource for our young players in Rockford.”
Kunitz was a player who you hated to play against, but you loved to have on your side when the puck was dropped. He understood his role and performed his job to great success over his 15-year career. He will have plenty to share with young players in the Blackhawks organization.