The frozen ponds of Canada are where many kids first lace up skates and establish NHL dreams.
When the season turns and the ice briefly melts, hockey can take a bit of a back seat to summer pleasures. But only for a short while.
During summers, Hilary and Dale Dach would take their three kids – including oldest son Kirby, whom the Blackhawks drafted with the No. 3 pick last week – to a lake near their home outside Edmonton for some splashing around.
It didn’t matter. Hockey was never far from Kirby’s mind.
“I’d say, ‘Go grab what toys you want to take down to the water,’ ” Hilary said Monday after a news conference at the United Center. “And he grabs a hockey stick. He floats around with a hockey stick. That was him. Everything was about hockey.”
Kirby Dach has the face of a boy, the body of a man and a mother amazed at a journey that over the weekend took her family to Vancouver to watch Kirby become a Hawk.
Nobody in the Dach family – including Hilary, Dale and siblings Colton and Callie – had been to Chicago before arriving Sunday in advance of Kirby’s introductory news conference. It won’t be their last visit.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” Hilary said. “Anytime a parent gets to watch their child’s dreams come true, it’s very humbling. I just want the best for all my kids. Right now it’s about Kirby and seeing him so happy, and to be part of such a monumental organization, I just can’t ask for anything better.”
Hawks general manager Stan Bowman feels the same way. Dach is the type of player who wasn’t attainable before the Hawks moved up from No. 12 in the draft lottery.
For those who preferred defenseman Bowen Byram or forward Alex Turcotte, know this: You might end up being right.
But Bowman and vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley are beyond confident that Dach, a 6-foot-4, 198-pound center with an NHL-ready body, was the best choice for the Hawks.
“When you look at the game that Kirby brings to Chicago, he’s got a little bit of everything,” Bowman said. “He’s got the skill to play with the high-skill players. He can make plays that can wow you. He’s also got the competitiveness to show that he wants it more than anyone else.
“I think we’ve got a special player here, and as you’ll see, we’re excited for what’s to come.”
The whirlwind first few days in the organization are over, and Dach can start focusing on prospect development camp in July and then training camp in September. The Hawks have three options next season for Dach, 18, who isn’t age-eligible to begin the season in the AHL.
_He can make the team out of training camp and begin his NHL career. This isn’t unheard of for a No. 3 pick. Last year’s third pick, Canadiens forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi, was in the NHL all season. The previous three No. 3 picks – Dylan Strome, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Miro Heiskanen – didn’t play in the NHL at all during their draft year.
_He can return to the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League. Dach has nothing left to prove in the WHL, where he already has played three seasons and this past season had 73 points in 62 regular-season games before a dominant postseason. One upside to going back would be a chance to play with his younger brother, Colton, whom Saskatoon drafted last year.
_He can join the Hawks for up to nine games and get a taste of the NHL without burning the first year of his three-year entry-level deal. If it works out, great. If not, he returns to Saskatoon for the remainder of the season and delays the start of his NHL career.
Dach may look capable of playing in the NHL, but the teenager will need to prove he can battle against men.
“I was at Game 4 for St. Louis versus Boston (in the Stanley Cup Final) and got to meet a couple of those players and see how big and strong they are,” Dach said. “One area where I need to add is a little bit more size. The other thing I need to learn is the pace of play. I don’t understand what that’s going to be like until I get there and play with those guys and practice with them.
“So for me to get into camp, I’m going to make it tough on the management group to send me back and I’m going to give them every reason to keep me here.”
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