At some point in February, Chicago Wolves general manager Wendell Young determined he needed a few veterans to solidify the team’s roster and increase its chances of getting to the playoffs – and winning once there.
The first step was the organization’s reacquisition of forward Adam Cracknell, who was instrumental in last year’s run to the Midwest Division and Western Conference Semifinals.
Young also traded for Norfolk Admirals defenseman Brendan Bell, which pleased the 31-year-old veteran immensely because it gave him a better chance to play meaningful games. When the deal was made on March 3, the Admirals were well out of the playoff chase and, befitting a team looking to the future, planning to give some of Bell’s minutes to their youngsters.
“I was very excited,” Bell said. “Coming to a team that wanted and needed me was a huge plus.”
But there was one big catch. Exactly one month before the trade, Charlie Lake Bell came into the world. Charlie, who is Brendan and Monika’s third child and second daughter, joined the rest of the happy Bell family living in Norfolk.
When the trade happened, the Bells decided it made the most sense not to move the family to Chicago. While Brendan joined his new teammates in the Midwest, Monika was tasked with packing up Charlie, 2-year-old Emmy and 4-year-old Jack and moving back to their permanent home in Ottawa, Ontario.
To complicate matters further, Charlie had to spend a week in the hospital with a respiratory virus. Fortunately Monika’s mother was able to travel to help out.
“My wife is going to deserve a medal by the end of this season,” Bell said. “It has been a heck of a lot tougher on them than it has been on me.”
Bell, who has done his best to stay connected with daily FaceTime sessions, has been able to visit his family just once since the trade. When the Wolves played at Toronto and Hamilton on April 1-2, the coaches encouraged Bell to head to Ontario two days early in order to maximize the family’s real face time.
Utica is just 3.5 hours from Ottawa, so the Bells are hoping to reunite this week as the Wolves and Utica Comets conclude their best-of-five Western Conference Quarterfinals on Wednesday, Friday and potentially Saturday.
“Hopefully they’ll come on the day in between,” Bell said. “Then I can get some more time with the kids.”
Hopefully Jack, Emmy and Charlie will learn someday how valuable their dad has been for the Wolves. During his 17 regular-season games with the team, he produced 1 goal, 9 assists and a +7 plus/minus rating. In the first two games of the Western Conference Quarterfinals, Bell produced 2 assists and a +1 rating. He was the one in Game 1 who zipped the perfect pass from the left point to Magnus Paajarvi in the right circle for his game-tying goal with 1 second left in regulation.
“He has brought us a lot of poise, a lot of veteran leadership,” said Wolves assistant coach Mark Hardy, who directs the defensemen. “He moves the puck very well and he’s a very good power-play guy for us, settles things down for us. He does all the right things on the bench for our young guys.”
“This is a lot of fun,” Bell said.