(Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)

A 4-0 shutout against an Original Six opponent who beat them their last match up would normally be a boisterous show for the Blackhawks at the United Center, but Sunday night’s victory over the Maple Leafs was, instead, a somber one.

The Blackhawks learned Sunday that sometime between their Saturday night game in Columbus, and returning to home ice the following day that long-time assistant equipment manager Clint Reif had died.

A normally deafening United Center crowd joined in a moment of silence before puck-drop to honor Reif. And the victory closed with a team hug and raised sticks at center ice.

“We are deeply saddened by the untimely loss of one of our own family members this morning,” the Blackhawks said in a statement. “Like all trainers and support staff within our organization, Clint was instrumental in helping our players and coaches prepare and compete both on and off the ice. Our sincerest sympathies go out to the Reif family.’’

Reif was a “stick-boy” at 13 years old. He worked his way up to nine years and two Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks and forged friendships along the way.

 

Reif, 34, is survived by wife, Kelly; three daughters, Florence, Aislynn and Colette; and son, C.J. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the DuPage County Coroner’s office said Reif was found unresponsive in his home at 8:32 a.m. Sunday by Lombard police and fire departments. His death remains under investigation.

The team and staff wore “CR” decals in his memory, and Blackhawks players honored him on the ice with disciplined play.

“We were definitely playing with heavy hearts out there,” Captain Jonathan Toews said, choked up, in a postgame interview. “We’re still in disbelief. The fact we went out there and played the way we did, we dedicated that one to our good friend Clint.”

The Blackhawks played with determination and focus. Those heavy hearts may have shown on their faces, but it wasn’t visible in their skates.

They out-shot the Maple Leafs 34-31, won 31 face-offs to Toronto’s 27, and scored on one of two power plays, where Toronto was unable to capitalize on either of their two man-advantages.

“Normally when you’re going into a game, you can turn off any issues you have going on in your personal life, but tonight I don’t think anyone was able to do that,” Sharp said. “I think everyone played great considering the circumstances. We wanted to make sure we had a big effort for Clint.”

Goaltender Antti Raanta earned his second shutout of the season, earning a 1.76 goals against average and .945 save percentage in eight games played, with the victory.

The team reflected post-game about honoring Reif, who they considered a friend and teammate more so than a staff member.

“He was just a selfless person. He was never thinking about himself. He was always thinking about how he could help others, and, it’s just tough,” Toews said. “He was just a positive guy to be around. It’s unbelievable. He was just a part of our team, you know.

“He might as well have been wearing one of these sweaters.”

 

Former colleagues, teammates, and even opponents, shared in their condolences as well.

 


Before and After

The Blackhawks have improved to 23-10-2, with a three-point edge in the Central Division.

This Maple Leafs win follows a seven-round shootout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday night at Nationwide Arena–breaking a 13 consecutive game win streak for Chicago against Columbus.

The Blackhawks fell 5-1 to the Winnipeg Jets at 7:30 p.m. CT Tuesday and will head to Colorado to face the Avalanche at 8:00 p.m. Saturday.

Carly Mullady grew up needing to know more about icing than its deliciousness on cupcakes. She's the lone daughter of four children, with a father who was among the last cut from the Midwest tryouts for the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic team. And she knows very little matches the thrill that happens from puck-drop to handshakes. A rink didn’t return to her hometown until she was gone, but she’s been able to see two younger brothers on the ice. She's their feistiest fan. Her other hockey loyalty lies with the Blackhawks--whether it's meant seeing games for $8 with student IDs when the Madhouse didn’t have much of a temper at all, or dancing to Chelsea Dagger at standing room only--there’s something magical about a roaring anthem, the Indianhead sweater, and the Original Six. A former journalist and current editor, she carries a penchant for excitement (and maybe even fighting) with a resume that includes working for Chicago-area newspapers, and television, including The Jerry Springer Show, as well as NBCUniversal in New York. After East Coast living and a return to the Chicago area, the new Mrs. is giving Graceland a go with her Southern Gent, who now shares her adoration of the game, and their rescue dog, Doc Holliday. Other interests include Cubs, Bears, Illini, Crimson Tide, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, baking a mean pineapple upside-down cake, Kate Spade accessories, and a properly coordinated cardigan for every ensemble.

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