CHICAGO–James van Riemsdyk showed up for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final at the United Center. He was there to support his brother, Trevor, making his NHL playoffs debut, but it still brought back all kinds of bad memories.
Van Riemsdyk was a rookie with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010, going all the way to the Stanley Cup final only to lose in six games to Chicago. At the time, the entire van Riemsdyk clan — including Trevor — followed James and the Flyers around.
Now the van Riemsdyks, including James, are following Trevor and the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks trail the Tampa Bay Lightning in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup two games to one. One of Chicago’s issues is defence. Coach Joel Quenneville has basically played four defencemen: Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya, with a parade of others in and out of the lineup and getting limited minutes.
Trevor van Riemsdyk may well break that cycle. When Oduya got hurt in Game 3, van Riemsdyk ended up playing a bigger role than anticipated. If he can continue to do that, he can give Chicago’s Big Four defencemen extra time to rest.
Trevor van Riemsdyk’s story has been an inspirational one, one of those can’t-believe-this-is-happening tales. Forget that he’d played only eight minor league games since mid-November and was now a part of the Stanley Cup playoffs. You have to go back further.
Then he went to Chicago’s main camp and made the team. Quite remarkable for an older rookie — he’s 23 — without a lick of pro experience.
“It’s been a roller coaster ride for him to say the least,” said James. “You start with the highs of making the team out of camp, getting off to a good start, surprising a lot of people. Then it was marred by injuries, something you can’t really do anything about.
“He stayed very positive. He was focused on getting himself healthy and getting himself prepared to be in a situation like this.”
Trevor returned to health towards the end of the season and played eight games with Chicago’s top farm team. Once Rockford’s season ended, the Blackhawks called him up but hadn’t used him till Monday.
“I’ve been doing all I can to get ready and just be mentally prepared for this,” said Trevor. “Obviously there’s a lot of experience in this room to help me get ready, I have a brother who’s been through this. He’s helped me out; that’s an advantage to have.”
“He’s smart, very cerebral,” James said of Trevor. “He may not have even realized he’d be in this position this soon. But watching me go through it and drawing on those kinds of experiences, I definitely think I’ve been able to help him feel a little bit more comfortable in situations like this.”
“My brother has been through this. He’s helped me out,” said Trevor. “He told me to just enjoy it and remember it’s a hockey game. There’s a lot of stuff going on, maybe a little more hectic outside the rink before you go on the ice. But when you get on the ice, it’s another hockey game.”
But it’s also intense emotionally for players, said James.
“Being in that environment you’re completely dialed in,” said James. “You’re the last two teams playing. All the attention in the sporting world is what’s going on in this series. It’s fun. It brings out the best in you.”
James, by the way, sees the irony that he, in rooting for his brother, is rooting for the Blackhawks.
“It’s come full circle,” said James. “We were two wins away and Chicago was the team that knocked us out. Now, I’m pulling for them and pulling for my brother to win the championship. It’s kind of weird.”