Over the last three years, Alex Stalock has played in only one NHL game. That's because he was diagnosed with myocarditis — an inflammation of the heart muscle — in November of 2020 after testing positive for COVID-19.
Stalock said he met with at least five different cardiologists, then discussed with his family, agent, main cardiologist in Minnesota and his electro physician to discuss the next steps and whether he could continue playing hockey.
"The ultimate thing was, 'If you do want to put this to the test and you want to play again, you've got to go play,'" Stalock said. "The ultimate test is playing. You can only do [so many] heart tests, stress tests, all these tests, but it's not on the ice, it's not playing a game with fans, adrenaline, all that stuff. The best thing was to go play, see how your heart felt and get an answer going into the summer."
Stalock felt good enough over the offseason to give it a whirl and signed with the Blackhawks on a one-year, $750,000 contract. The 35-year-old goaltender admitted he wondered if a team would give him a chance again and is grateful to have gotten an opportunity in Chicago.
"Super excited," Stalock said. "Original Six team, storied franchise, some of the core group guys are still here. At my age, you never know how much time you have left, and you enjoy every single day you're at the rink."
On Saturday, Stalock played the entire preseason game at the United Center and was terrific, despite losing 3-0 to the Detroit Red Wings. He stopped 32 of 35 shots for a save percentage of .914, turning aside the first 26 shots he faced. It looked like he hadn't skipped too much of a beat.
"Huge game," Jonathan Toews said of Stalock's performance. "Wanted to support him a little bit better to get him that confidence boost that comes with the great two periods, 2.5 periods that he played. We weren't giving him much help at all before that first goal went in. Some really big saves.
"It looks like he's focused and he's ready. It's nice to see him make some big stops, and either way, that's going to help his confidence."
Stalock has dealt with a lot of bumps in the road injury-wise as a player, acknowledging "that's kind of been my career." It's another type of adversity he's overcome and he's looking to make the most of whatever he's got left in the tank as he mentally prepares to play a full 82-game season.
"I'm here," Stalock said. "I'm not here for 20 games. Any goalie you'll ask, they want to play as many times as possible and give their team a chance to win every night."