— On the day Stan Bowman arrived at Notre Dame as a freshman in 1991, he had walking pneumonia and a broken ankle from crashing his golf cart.
A feeble Bowman needed crutches to hobble from his Keenan Hall dorm to the infirmary, a place he visited more than the library his first week. Back home in Buffalo, N.Y., Suella Bowman "was petrified'' her son would struggle, Stan recalled with a grin Thursday at his alma mater.
"I was always like, it's no big deal, I'm going to be fine,'' Bowman said.
During a nostalgic walk across the North Quad before the Blackhawks opened four days of training camp at the Compton Family Ice Arena, Bowman reflected how far he had come since his parents dropped him off at college. The father of three beat cancer, became general manager for one of the healthiest organizations in hockey and will need help ambling around campus this weekend only if the Stanley Cup starts to feel heavy.
Nothing makes Bowman grateful for his Notre Dame education quite like bringing the silver chalice under the golden dome.
"I grew up a lot here,'' said Bowman, who graduated in 1995 with degrees in finance and computer applications. "It was an exciting time for me because you got a chance to be your own person.''
That process took time. The most common question for Bowman as an 18-year-old came when classmates constantly wondered why Scotty Bowman's son never played varsity hockey.
"I got that a lot,'' Bowman said. "I just wasn't good enough so I played on the club team.''
Working part time at the Loftus Sports Center his freshman year for late former Notre Dame hockey coach Lefty Smith, a good friend of Scotty's, eased the adjustment. Eventually, people stopped asking and started accepting Bowman for who he was: a studious kid with a successful dad. At a place like Notre Dame, that didn't make Bowman unique.
"If the questions ever bothered Stan, he did a real good job keeping it under the surface,'' said Tim McNeill, Bowman's academic adviser, whose son, Mike, played for the Blackhawks in 1991. "I don't remember Stan struggling much. He was a heads-up young man, a thinker.''
A thought popped into Bowman's head when he considered ways to keep the Hawks fresh after an offseason that seemingly flew by in 17 seconds. At the beginning of 2010, the Hawks spent 10 days in Europe. At the beginning of 2013, the Hawks played 10 of their first 12 on the road. Nothing bonds a hockey team like jet lag.
"There's something to be said for time the guys spend together,'' Bowman said. "Whenever you do something different, you focus a little more. That is the main reason we're here.''
So it wasn't to tweak Boston-area native Brian Kelly for predicting the Bruins in seven?
The Irish football coach has played gracious host as he recovers from the Michigan meltdown. The Hawks toured Notre Dame Stadium, trying on gold helmets and playing catch. They attended practice, where Kelly asked Hawks President John McDonough to address the Irish. McDonough, who grew up loving Notre Dame but was denied admission, called the talk a career highlight.
"There is a unique mystique, an aura, something special about Notre Dame,'' McDonough told Kelly's players. "For us to have the privilege to share these four days will be something for our memory banks.''
On the ice, the Hawks still resemble the team nobody soon will forget after emphasizing stability since June 24. As the Cup went around the world in 80 days, the Hawks kept their best assets in the fold. Coach Joel Quenneville and Bowman received new contracts. So did playoff heroes Corey Crawford and Bryan Bickell. Niklas Hjalmarsson accepted less money to sign a longer deal. Bowman announced his plan to make Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane Blackhawks for life. Any day now, Chairman Rocky Wirtz will open negotiations with the Indian head about committing for another 20 years.
There are names such as Pirri and Morin to learn and penalty-killers to find, but the Hawks couldn't have planned any smarter for the future without reserving Grant Park for upcoming Fridays in June.
"Now we just have to keep it going,'' Bowman said.
At least the Hawks came to a place familiar with impossibly high expectations. Quenneville smiled when reminded he still had four championships to win to catch Knute Rockne,whose statue sits nearby. Bowman chuckled when asked how many Cups the Hawks might win by his 20-year college reunion, given that he missed his 15th in 2010 because of the Flyers series.
"Funny,'' Bowman said.
The rest of the NHL isn't laughing. And history says this is the wrong campus to underestimate Bowman once he hits his stride.