CHICAGO – One by one, freshly shaven Blackhawks players paraded across a stage Friday morning in Grant Park, pumping their fists and toting hockey hardware in front of an unbroken sea of red and black.
As chaotic and celebratory as the city’s Stanley Cup celebration had been three years ago when the Hawks captured their first championship in 49 years, Friday’s parade through Chicago’s streets and the rally that followed played out more like an expected crowning achievement.
Fans, who had packed onto El trains and then had filled both sides of Washington Street, relished the scene under sunny skies as the Hawks celebrated their second Stanley Cup title in four seasons. And somewhere between Jim Cornelison’s trademark rendition of the national anthem and Corey Crawford’s profanity-laced speech, Chicagoans showed they still love a party.
More than a million fans filled Grant Park, commemorating a Stanley Cup championship clinched on Dave Bolland’s third-period goal that closed out a 17-second stretch of a Game 6 win over the Boston Bruins. Four days later, fans and players alike still were soaking in the championship moment.
“I can’t think of a better team, a better bunch of guys to represent this city,” said Hawks captain Jonathan Toews, who hoisted the Stanley Cup over his head on his way to the lectern during Friday’s rally. “Hard-working guys, down-to-earth guys who go out and play for each other every single shift – [they] represent this city and what it means.”
Players, coaches and other team personnel traveled from the United Center to Grant Park by double-decker bus, passing down city streets where confetti dropped from buildings and where fans snapped photos on their cell phones and digital cameras.
Friday’s celebration was the culmination of a week that started in Boston, where the Hawks finished off the Bruins before returning to Chicago early Tuesday morning. Conn Smyth Trophy winner Patrick Kane was one of several players to speak at Friday’s rally, fresh off his appearance on “Late Night With David Letterman.”
Kane awarded Crawford with the team-issued championship belt, awarded to the top star after each game. Despite being honored as the best player in the playoffs, Kane said Crawford was the team’s top performer in series wins over Minnesota, Detroit, Los Angeles and Boston.
Kane received one of the biggest ovations during Friday’s rally.
“What’s up, Chicago?” Kane said as he approached the lectern. “The only reason this is fun is because of all you guys coming out and supporting this team. It makes hockey fun. There’s a saying I said throughout the playoffs that represents this team perfectly: That’s hockey, baby.”
With that, Kane handed the championship belt to Crawford, who used a series of profanities before leaving the stage with a parting shot, bringing more cheers from the capacity crowd standing in front of him.
“No one will ever take this away from us,” Crawford said. “We’re the champs.”
The Hawks’ season started with an NHL-record 24-game unbeaten streak and included winning the President’s Trophy, awarded to the team with the league’s best record. After falling behind 3-1 in the Western Conference semifinals to rival Detroit, the Hawks responded with series wins over Los Angeles and then Boston to capture another Stanley Cup championship.
Coach Joel Quenneville said his team was one filled with players committed to one another and to the franchise. He then paid homage to Chicago, saying, “We’re all fortunate to play in a special place like Chicago.”
Players echoed Quenneville’s comments to loyal fans, who battled heavy crowds and a warm summer breeze that filled Grant Park throughout Friday’s celebration.
“For the guys who were here in 2010, we didn’t think there was a chance we could outmatch that performance by the fans,” Toews said. “But you guys did it somehow. This shows how unbelievable this city is.”