Hjalmarsson day is fast approaching! The Chicago Blackhawks are honoring Niklas Hjalmarsson on March 3rd at the United Center as the Blackhawks face the Edmonton Oilers to end a six-game homestand. Chicago would select the young Swedish defenseman back in 2005 in the fourth round, one hundred and eighth overall. Niklas Hjalmarsson would go on to be a key part of a group of players that would help lead Chicago to three Stanley Cups, becoming a modern-day dynasty. Hjalmarsson is the unsung hero who didn’t get as much love as he should have during his playing time. Fans have seemed to have started to recognize just how impactful “The Hammer” was for Chicago now that his playing days are in the review. Hjalmarsson is one of my personal favorite Blackhawks to ever play the game. He was willing to give up every inch of his body as he would get in front of any puck. Hjalmarsson is by far the best puck blocking defenseman I have ever seen. Scorching slap shots would smash into Hjalmarsson’s ankles or thighs, and he would just eat the pain, battling to get the puck out of the zone before limping to the bench. I thought it was funny when he decided to put a visor on but tilted it up, exposing his eyes. Who can forget when he would lay a massive hit on Backes that would have Pat Foley yelling, “He just laid the hammer on Backes” in the playoffs. Chicago will play a highlight video during his ceremony, in which I will be crying, laughing, and still yelling at the refs for waving off the goal versus Detroit that is inevitably going to be in the highlights reel.
Hjalmarsson would go on to play six hundred and twenty-three games in a Blackhawks jersey. This young Swedish player would be one of a few who would also factor in on all three cups. Hjalmarsson was just on “Blackhawks Talk Podcast” with Pat Boyle and talked about who he was close with players such as Kruger, Stalberg, and Oduya were named. Maybe they will get their night in the future; Andrew Shaw got one. On the same podcast, Pat Boyle brought up the three days where Hjalmarsson signed with the Sharks and had to wait to see if Chicago would match it. Many fans may not recall; it was essentially between him and Nemi. Chicago chose him, thankfully, and the rest is history. Nemi would ultimately take Hjalmarsson’s spot and sign in San Jose. Hjalmarsson would say that “it was bittersweet” and that Nemi was one of his best friends at the time. Hjalmarsson would play a total of six hundred and twenty-three games for Chicago before Bowman panicked and blew up the roster causing a download spiral that has been going on for five-plus years, but I’ll digress from that. Hjalmarsson would score one hundred and forty-three points for the Hawks ( 23 goals, 120 assists) during his decade run. It is insanely rare a player can make the enormous impact as Hjalmarson did without putting up big offensive numbers. He truly perfected his craft and was an elite shutdown defenseman with just a sprinkle of offense.
Hjalmarsson is the perfect example that you don’t have to be flashy and score to make it in the NHL. All you have to do is dedicate yourself to your craft and give it your all every shift. Hjalmarsson was a perfect prototype for any young defenseman to form their game around. Congrats to Hjalmarsson on a great career, and enjoy retirement. Now let’s hope Chicago packs the house and give Niklas Hjalmarsson the standing ovation and honor him for every drop of blood, sweat, and tears he gave for the Chicago Blackhawks organization and the fans of the Blackhawks. Thank you, Niklas Hjalmarsson