The author’s note: with the Chicago Blackhawks locked in No. 8 for the NHL assembly in 2018, we moved the focus of our weekly series “Former Blackhawk of the Week” to players previously selected with this eighth choice. For the third and final part of this rapid shift in focus, in 1998 No. 8 the general choice was Mark Bell.
The way before Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were called before Duncan Kate and Brent Seabrook made their debut in the NHL in the 2005-06 season, Mark Bell was part of a group that was supposed to bring Chicago Blackhawks out of the hockey wilds.
A huge skater at 6 feet 3, 220 pounds, Bell was chosen eighth overall in the NHL in 1998 after posting 60 points in 55 games for Ottawa 67 in the OHL. He then put 72 points in 48 games next season and spent most of the 2000-01 hockey season with Admiral Norfolk, although he played in his first NHL game this winter, in one of 13 games he skated just 20 years ,
At the time, Bell was part of a young trick that is believed to be a buddy of the future Hawks, along with forwards Kyle Calder and Tyler Arnason, dubbed “ABC Line.” And in the first season, all three reached the NHL level together, Hawks made an unexpected run in 2002 in the Stanley Cup playoffs, losing in the first round to the St. Louis Blues.
Bell was the strong point of this trio and the same security officer as the group, finishing more than 100 penalty minutes in each of the four seasons in Chicago. When Bell’s abilities were at their peak, he could do things like this one-handed game that played against the Detroit Red Wings in 2003:
But the shine on this culture of the young Blackhawks began to disappear as the 2000s unfolded. Arnason would have attracted the wrath of then-coach Brian Sutter for feeling a lack of rigidity (as we discussed in an earlier issue of this series). Bell was a fairly consistent producer for the Hawks, scoring 28 points in his first season and increasing this number to 29, 45 and finally 48. He was also a 20-ball scorer in the back-to-back seasons at the end of his Chicago ownership.
New general manager Dale Tallon took over Hawks in 2005 and sold Bell in the San Jose Sharks for a year later to Josh Hennessy and Tom Preussing. Twenty-four hours later, the two were transferred to Ottawa, as well as another perspective and choice for Brian Smolinski and Martin Gavlat, a series of steps that, looking back, were a major victory for the Hawks.
In 2006, Bell faced legal problems in San Jose, accused of drunk driving on the occasion of Labor Day in 2006. He received a 15-game suspension from the NHL and was placed in the drug abuse program of the league for the incident, but, to Bell’s credit, he cleaned his way of life after this accident and played hockey for another decade. He spent seasons with the Sharks and Toronto Maple Leafs, played five games with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 2011-12, but played most of his remaining hockey days in Europe.
In June 2016, he announced his retirement from professional hockey at the age of 35 years.