Goalkeepers and speeches go together like coffee and mushrooms: they don’t unless you’re Alex Stalock.
“It’s like collagen coffee,” Stalock explained on the Blackhawks Insider podcast this week. “But I like the taste.”
Barely a month into his first season with the Blackhawks, the veteran goaltender has already conquered the locker room with his post-victory speeches, reserved for the team’s most valuable player of the night. Stalock has given more than his fair share of such talk after his impressive 3-2-0 start this season.
“You have a short window to say something brief and you’ve gotten on it,” Stalock said on the Blackhawks Insider podcast this week. “A lot of times [what you say] is probably pretty dumb to be honest.”
The speeches show the side of Stalock that teammates in multiple locker rooms know and love. Minnesota’s strong accent underscores the wisdom and lightness he brings to a competitive NHL environment.
Moments like this for Stalock are a reminder of the medical hurdles the 35-year-old veteran had to overcome to play at the highest level. He has faced a number of work-related and life-threatening injuries and medical emergencies. Through it all, prioritizing the joys of hockey has allowed Stalock to weather the tough times and celebrate the everyday.
“When [I’m] going through tactile stretches or whatever, I’m like, ‘Are you having fun?’ Stalock said. “It’s a simple answer. [If you’re not] usually it’s about flipping a switch, resetting and returning to the rink with a smile on your face.”
Stalock began his professional career with the San Jose Sharks after being drafted by the team in 2005. A few games after earning his first NHL win in 2011, an opposing forward’s skate landed on Stalock’s leg. Stalock during the match and severed the nerve and tendon that ran down his leg, leaving many wondering if he would ever play again. Stalock returned 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 contract 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 play for so many people in this state who care about the game,” Stalock said. “All the people in northern Minnesota in these little bars where there’s 20 people sitting there…there’s so much pride in not only playing Minnesota college hockey, but also having the opportunity to play for [the state’s] The NHL team.”
Stalock quickly became a fixture in the Wild’s locker room. Then the pandemic turned everything upside down. After testing positive for COVID-19, Stalock has faced a new medical scare unlike any injury he has suffered.
“[Doctors] were discovering in athletes that they had heart problems because of COVID,” Stalock said. “So I had to spend all those [medical] tests, and one of the tests revealed that there was swelling in my heart.”
Medical staff diagnosed Stalock with myocarditis: inflammation of the heart that can lead to cardiac arrest or sudden death in athletes if their heart rate is too high. Years after his injury with the Sharks, Stalock faced another obstacle that now threatened his life.
“To answer what [having myocarditis] feels like, you don’t feel anything to be honest,” Stalock said. “It’s not like a broken arm. It’s not like a concussion or anything like that. I had no idea I had it.”
Illness sidelined him for the 2020-21 season; medical experts said he would likely miss the next season as well.
“I didn’t know if I would ever be good and go back to what I was before in terms of health,” Stalock said.
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 goaltender on waivers, Stalock needed to find another opportunity to play in the NHL again. The Oilers won his contract and assigned him to the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL.
“I was really lucky to go there because they had an amazing group of guys,” Stalock said.
He credits Condors head coach Jay Woodcroft, who is now the Oilers head coach, with developing a plan to get Stalock back to the game. After so many doubts surrounding his health and career , Stalock found himself rediscovering the joy of playing hockey.
“It was a good start for me,” Stalock said of his time playing for the Birmingham Condors. “I found that spark [where] I’m like, ‘I love it, and I want to go back to where I’ve been.’ “
A year later, the Blackhawks gave him that shot after his contract with the Oilers expired and signed Stalock to a one-year deal. In turn, he brought delight 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 embarks on another mission:
“I really want to get on [goaltender] scorer list,” Stalock said. “It’s not a long list of goalies. Former teams and coaches [I’ve been with] it’s always been the joke: ‘When are you going to score? When are you going to score? I hope it will come one day.”