The Blackhawks practice facility locker room at Johnny's Ice House is big enough to fit 24 lockers, a flock of sports reporters, a massive laundry bin, a bevy of equipment managers and a storage cabinet with enough Juicy Fruit and Doublemint to stock a Sam's Club.
What it doesn't have room for is Andrew Shaw.
Not officially, anyhow. Because on this day in early April, one week before the start of the playoffs, the Hawks' roster includes several late-season call-ups, thus exceeding the available locker space. When this happens, the young guys rotate through the available lockers.
So now, as his teammates change at their respective stalls, Shaw sits smack in the middle of the lockerroom on a padded, foldaway United Center floor chair in lieu of any space of his own. Not that it bothers him.
"I'm the youngest guy, a rookie," he says with a laugh. "I guess [assistant equipment manager] Clint [Reif] decided it would be funny to put me in the middle. But I don't mind. I get to talk to everybody."
Indeed. While he is a fan favorite, Shaw is just as popular with his co-workers and employers as he is his paying admirers. He enters the lockerroom after practice and immediately gives fellow forward Bryan Bickell a congenial 1-2 punch in the arm, and Bickell, giving an interview, smiles and says, "That’s Shaw."
Despite Shaw's natural aggression and his claim that he's "not a pretty goal guy," he has shown a penchant for puck-handling. On March 18 against the Capitals, Shaw emerged with the puck from a behind-the-net scramble, skated to the opposite side of the net, swooped around the post and laced a shot past Washington goalie Michal Neuvirth.
And his first NHL goal (on his first NHL shift no less) came courtesy of a near-the-crease shake-and-bake that would have made Wayne Gretzky proud. Though his confidence and assertiveness were there from the start, he surprised himself with how quickly he scored.
"I envisioned scoring in my first game," Shaw said, "but not on my first shot. When that went in, I was overwhelmed with joy."
That joy is evident in all aspects of Shaw, on and off the ice.
"He's a little ball of energy," Bickell said. "He puts his body on the line all the time. "
But thus far, Shaw's first playoff experience has been a downer. Held scoreless in Game 1, Shaw collected more penalty minutes in Game 2 than ice time, a result of his behind-the-net charge on Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith. A hit that earned him a suspension for Games 3, 4 and 5.
In a series comprised entirely of overtime games, the Hawks fell into a 3-1 series deficit with Shaw watching before capturing Game 5 Saturday night in Phoenix on the stick of captain Jonathan Toews. It was his second goal of the series and his team-high fourth point, quite an achievement considering he'd missed the team's final 22 regular season games.
Toews' absence meant an increased workload for Shaw who, over his final eight regular-season games, averaged 17.5 minutes of ice time, up from 14.6 during his first stint when he and Toews were active together.
They'll be together again Monday at the United Center when Shaw returns. A win means Game 7 and a renewed chance for another moment like Patrick Kane's Cup-winning masterpiece of 2010. Ask Shaw about it and he lights up like a boy at his birthday party.
"It was unbelievable," he said. "Once it went in, the joy on his face is one thing I strive to accomplish in my life."
Even scoring the goal?
"I don't know about scoring the goal. But maybe being a part of the celebration after, yes."
He watched that game in his family's cottage in Ameliasburgh, Ontario, and it's a quaint scene to imagine, the future star with Mom and Dad and a group of friends, watching his future teammate score a Cup-winning goal. Now the two men share a locker room, Shaw a valued member of a Stanley Cup hopeful, his place on the team secure.
As for his place in the locker room?
"I'm happy where I am," he said, looking confident and relaxed in the post-practice hustle. "I'd sit in this chair for 15 years if I could."
Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor. @ReadJackCopyright © 2015, RedEye