BLOG: Stalock Shares Philosophy After Making His NHL Return

Goaltenders and speeches go together like coffee and mushrooms: they don’t unless you’re Alex Stalock.

“It’s like a collagen coffee,” Stalock explained on the Blackhawks Insider podcast this week. “But I do love the taste.”

Barely a month into his first season with the Blackhawks, the veteran netminder’s already won over the locker room through his post-win speeches, reserved for the team’s most valuable player for the night. Stalock has given more than his fair share of those speeches after his impressive 3-2-0 start this season.

“You get a short window to say something brief and you get put right on the spot,” said Stalock on the Blackhawks Insider podcast this week. “A lot of the times [what you say] is probably pretty stupid to be honest.”

Tweet from @NHLBlackhawks: Good morning Chicago 😁

The speeches show off the side of Stalock that teammates across multiple locker rooms know and love. The heavy Minnesotan accent underscores the wisdom and levity he brings to a competitive NHL environment.

Moments like this for Stalock serve as a reminder of the medical hurdles the 35-year-old veteran has had to overcome to play at the highest level. He’s faced a number of career and life-threatening injuries and medical emergencies. Through it all, prioritizing the joys of hockey allowed Stalock to ride out the tough times and celebrate the everyday.

“When [I’m] going through touch stretches or whatever it may be, I ask myself, ‘Are you having fun?'” said Stalock. “It’s a simple answer. [If you’re not] usually you gotta flip a switch, reset, and go back to the rink with a smile on your face.”

Stalock began his pro career with the San Jose Sharks after getting drafted by the team in 2005. A few games after tallying his first NHL win in 2011, an opposing forward’s skate landed on Stalock’s leg in game and severed the nerve and tendon running down his leg, leaving many wondering if he’d ever play again. Stalock made it back to the ice after two surgeries and a year of recovery.

Things finally looked up for Stalock after the Minnesota Wild signed him to a multi-year deal in 2016. Playing for the Wild was a dream come true for the St. Paul native who played at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

“You’re playing for so many people in that state that care about the game,” said Stalock. “All the people in Northern Minnesota in those little bars where there’s 20 people sitting there … there’s just so much pride to play not only Minnesota college hockey, but to have the opportunity to play for [the state’s] NHL team.”

Stalock quickly became a leading fixture in the Wild’s locker room. Then the pandemic shook everything up. After testing positive for COVID-19, Stalock faced a new medical fear unlike any injury he’s every suffered.

“[Doctors] were finding in athletes that they were having heart issues from COVID,” Stalock recounted. “So I had to pass all these [medical] tests, and one of the tests found out there was some swelling going on in my heart.”

Medical staff diagnosed Stalock with myocarditis: inflammation of the heart which can lead to cardiac arrest or sudden death in athletes if their heart rate goes too high. Years after his injury with the Sharks, Stalock faced another hurdle that now threatened his life.

“To answer what [having myocarditis] feels like, you don’t feel anything to be honest,” said Stalock. “It’s not like a broken arm. It’s not like a concussion or anything like that. I had no clue I had it.”

The disease sidelined him for the 2020-21 season; medical experts said he’d likely miss the next season as well.

“I didn’t know if I’d ever be good and get back to who I was before health wise,” said Stalock.

But halfway through the 2021 season, Stalock decided to take the risk and get back on the ice. However, with the Wild having put the netminder on waivers, Stalock needed to find another opportunity to play in the NHL again. The Oilers picked up his contract and assigned him to the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL.

“I was really lucky to go there because they had an unbelievable group of guys,” said Stalock.

He credits Condors head coach Jay Woodcroft, who’s now the head coach for the Oilers, with laying out a plan for Stalock to transition back to playing. After so much doubt surrounding his health and career, Stalock found himself once more finding the fun in hockey.

“It was a good place to start for me,” said Stalock reflecting on his time playing for the Birmingham Condors. “I got that spark back [where] I’m like ‘I do love this, and I want to get back to where I have been.’ “

A year later the Blackhawks gave him that shot after his Oilers contract expired and signed Stalock to a 1-year contract. In turn he’s brought the fun to the fans having posted a .914 SV% and 2.93 GAA in seven games played. Now that he’s back on NHL ice, Stalock’s set his eyes on another mission: 

“I really want to get on the [goaltender] goalscoring list,” said Stalock. “It’s not a long list of goalies. The past teams and trainers [I’ve been with] it’s always been the joke: ‘When you gonna score? When you gonna score?’ Hopefully it comes some-day.”

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