Former Blackhawks star Eric Daze feeling good again (exclusive)

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Former Chicago Blackhawks left wing and 2002 NHL All-Star game MVP Eric Daze will hit the ice again for a celebrity hockey game on Thursday, Feb. 5, at 5 p.m. “Unite on the Ice” is an evening of celebrity hockey and open skate benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. (More info on the event here)

Daze didn’t play hockey at all for six years, but he laced up his skates again last year for a charity game in Peoria.

“I tried it, and my back was doing good, so I’m skating once a week and getting back involved in hockey,” Daze told The Sports Bank by phone.

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Daze is involved in real estate in Florida and Blackhawks alumni events. He’s also been busy watching his six year old son learn and play the game.

The Montreal native was drafted in the fourth round by the Blackhawks in 1993 (with the pick that the Hawks received with Stephane Beauregard in exchange for Dominik Hasek). He was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team in 1996 after scoring 30 goals his debut season.

Eric Daze scored at least 20 goals in each season between 1996 and 2003, even when struggling with injuries, and was named to the NHL All-Star Game in 2002. Appearing in his first and only All-Star Game, he was named game MVP, becoming the first Blackhawk to win the award since Bobby Hull in 1971.

However, severe back problems cut short his career. In the early 2000s, he underwent three herniated disc surgeries in a five-year span. It’s those back problems that limited his effectiveness during his playing career and kept him off the ice for six years.

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“I am in semi-retirement,” said Daze to a reporter in 2008.

“I did not take my official retirement, but everyone knows I withdrew myself.”

Eric Daze announced his official retirement in 2010.

The Hockey Writers.com wrote a “What Happened to Eric Daze?”  piece in 2009 which read: “Many reports of conversations with Daze all have one thing in common, that the man is still in constant pain.”

That situation appears to have dramatically changed for the better, per our conversation.

“Now it’s feeling really good. I’d say the last four or five years I’ve been really well,” he said.

That’s great news to hear. Eric Daze also spoke on the fundraiser exhibition game Thursday night:

“It’s going to be a really fun event and very exciting, for a great cause. It’s going to be a lot of fun for us to be playing outside like we did when we were kids.”

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“Unite on the Ice” kicks off the winter festival leading into the Hockey City Classic at Soldier Field this Saturday, Feb. 7. (more on that here)

Here’s more from Eric Daze on Bryan Bickell.

Paul M. Banks owns, operates and writes The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with Fox Sports Digital, eBay, Google News and CBS Interactive Inc. You can read Banks’ feature stories in the Chicago Tribune RedEye newspaper and listen to him on KOZN 1620 The Zone. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)

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