By Dave Leaderhouse
One of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s most successful graduates has called it a career.
Chris Kunitz announced earlier this week that after more than a 1,000 games and 15 NHL seasons his playing days are over. The soon-to-be 40-year-old will now be a player advisor for the Chicago Blackhawks and he certainly has plenty of experience to pass on to present and future players.
Born in Regina, Kunitz had a monster final season at the midget level scoring 38 goals and adding 38 assists with the Yorkton Mallers of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. Kunitz then spent the next two seasons with the SJHL’s Melville Millionaires where in 123 games he tallied 87 goals and assisted on 59 more.
Ferris State University noticed his talents and gave him a scholarship where in his final season he was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award after amassing 79 points in 42 games.
Having never been selected in the NHL entry draft, Kunitz moved on from his collegiate career by signing with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim where for the majority of the next two seasons he would toil with that club’s American Hockey League entry in Cincinnati.
In 2005-06 Kunitz made it to the NHL for good and the following season he realized the ultimate dream by helping the Ducks win the Stanley Cup. Kunitz would spend the better part of the next two seasons in Anaheim before a trade would send him to Pittsburgh where three more Stanley Cup championships would follow in the succeeding eight years.
Kunitz finished his career with single seasons in Tampa Bay and Chicago closing out his playing days with 619 points in 1,022 games.
In addition to the four Stanley Cup titles, Kunitz also represented Canada at a pair of major events first winning a silver medal at the 2008 world championships and then being a part of the 2014 gold-medal team at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
A playing career that has solid roots in the SJHL is now behind him, but Kunitz will undoubtedly continue to have success in the future and his fans will be with him all the way.