Blackhawks center Michal Handzus (right) battles for the puck with L.A.… (Jerry Lai / USA Today Sports )
That was perhaps the loudest and most frequent chant—in honor of Blackhawks center Michal Handzus—at the United Center during the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and it has returned several times since.
It's how the fans salute the 37-year-old when he throws himself in front of shots, helps shut down the opposition's power play and wins big faceoffs.
"He's been a leader ever since he got here, I think," 25-year-old forward Ben Smith said. "He's done the jobs that a lot of guys don't like to do, and he's done them really well. Whenever he's on the ice you know he's a guy that you can trust, that he's going to be strong defensively and create some offense.
"He's played over a thousand games [1,009 in the regular season alone] and he knows what it takes to win."
Handzus said recently he hears the fans at the UC. So do his teammates, who let him know they hear the adoring masses.
"Sometimes in the locker room we'll throw a 'Zuuus' out there," Smith said. "It's fun. A lot of guys get a lot of grief around here, it's all in good fun."
"We love it. I think it's great. He deserves it too, the way he sacrifices and the way he plays. It's nice when the fans appreciate a guy that plays hard and sacrifices like that. I think he enjoys it too, and we're always happy for him when he gets that recognition."
Handzus understands that's all part of being a fan favorite.
"[Laughs.] Yeah, [my teammates] love it," he said. "It's always like that, you know. If something happens like that, there's going to be talk in the locker room. It's just having fun with it a little bit.
"Obviously, it's the playoffs, it's a fun time of year. When you can make some plays, or block a shot or something and the fans appreciate it, it's always fun."
Bryan Bickell, who has made a name for himself when it comes to performing in the postseason, might even be a little jealous. Just a little, though.
"You hear the 'Crawford' chant once in a while, you hear the 'Zuuus' every time he blocks a shot; I think it's trending around the city," Bickell said. "Hopefully I can get, like, a Bickell chant after I hit somebody. To have that, I think it fires up the bench every time he does it. It's fun and it's good to see."
It's not just fans and teammates who recognize Handzus' importance, either. Tribune sportswriter Chris Kuc was among a group of writers who helped nominate him for the NHL's Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
"He's a warrior," Kuc said. "Every game he goes out there and his body looks like it's beat down, he looks tired, but every game he's out there blocking shots.
"I think as you get older, younger players look up to you. His teammates know he's been through the battles, been through the wars, and when he says something they really listen. Also, I think they look and say, 'Hey this old guy is taking a shot for us, we're going to go ahead and lay out too.'"
Scott King is a RedEye special contributor.
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