A few weeks ago, the British hockey world was pleasantly surprised to discover that one of our own, Paul Swindlehurst of the Dundee Stars, had been invited to hit the ice for the Chicago Blackhawks.
An Original Six team, the ‘Hawks lifted the Stanley Cup twice in recent years, in 2010 and 2013, and are undeniably one of the strongest teams in the league right now. So for a local lad to be invited to join them for their rookie tournament is a pretty big deal. Rookie tournaments are an annual thing, taking place every year before the NHL pre-season begins. Designed to give the NHL scouts a better look at some of the future players, the Blackhawks played in against rookies from the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators in a round-robin series of games. While the actual results are largely unimportant, the opportunity for these youngsters is enormous. Players from the AHL farm team and some of the newer youngsters already rostered to the NHL team are joined by a selection of undrafted players who are specifically invited by the team scouts.
One of those invitees this year was Paul Swindlehurst.
After spending some of his teenage years training in Canada, Paul returned to the UK for the 2011 season, joining Swindon Wildcats in the EPL, before making the move to Dundee. A regular in the Under 18 and Under 20 National Teams, Paul also took his place on the Great Britain senior team for their World Championships this year. It was presumably during this time that he was spotted by the Blackhawks’ scouts.
While Paul didn’t make the roster for the first of the three tournament games, vs Toronto Maple Leafs, he was rostered for the other two, paired with Justin Holl for the game against Pittsbugh, and with Dillon Fournier against Ottawa. In Pittsburgh, Paul even notched an assist!
All three of them are now training with the Blackhawks AHL affiliate, Rockford Icehogs, in preparation for their pre-season, which starts on Thursday 2nd October. It’s looking like Paul will be wearing #32 for the Icehogs.
We’ll be following him with Rockford over the next couple of weeks, but no matter what happens, it’s clear that Paul is making way for other Brits to play professional ice hockey in North America. Even if he gets “relegated” down to the ECHL, it’s still something to be proud of and proves that Britain can produce players that can compete with the best in the world. With Paul bringing Britain to the attention of professional North American scouts, it’s only a matter of time before the next players follow in his footsteps.