Dressed mostly in red and black, they came out to say thanks for the memories. Turns out, captain Jonathan Toews and Co. wanted to return the favor.
“This shows how unbelievable this city is,” Toews said, addressing the rapt crowd at Grant Park. “Unbelievable. Thank you.”
The Blackhawks rode to the rally in red, open-topped buses, passing waving and screaming fans of every age as the parade traveled from the United Center to the downtown party. Toews hoisted the Stanley Cup over his head to show it off to the crowd, which was cooled by large water misters placed along the route with temperatures in the low 80s.
One of the many signs read “Thank you, guys” on the top line and “Best 17 seconds of my life” for the second part – referring to the pair of late goals that lifted the Blackhawks to a 3-2 title-clinching victory over the Boston Bruins on Monday night. And there was at least one expression of love for Andrew Shaw, the hardscrabble forward who required stitches on his face after he was hit by a puck Monday.
It was the second championship in four seasons for the Blackhawks, and authorities thought Friday’s crowd was even heartier than the 2 million that came out in 2010.
“What do you say we get back here and do it again next year?” forward Patrick Sharp said to a big cheer at the rally.
The Grant Park crowd also enjoyed a brief but colorful speech by normally reserved goaltender Corey Crawford, who drew wide grins and chuckles from his teammates.
“It’s tough to follow that speech by Corey Crawford,” Toews said after he carried the Cup onto the stage.
The franchise’s fifth Stanley Cup was the culmination of a banner season for the Blackhawks, who set an NHL record when they recorded at least one point in the first 24 games – half of the lockout-shortened schedule. They finished with the best record in the league.
The dramatic Game 6 victory in Boston sparked a raucous party in parts of Chicago. Fans poured out of bars after the thrilling finish and celebrated in the streets in the several neighborhoods.
Sarah Schmidt, 22, who grew up in Chicago and made the pilgrimage to Friday’s celebrations from Milwaukee, told her boss she was taking the day off no matter what. She hoped her bartending gig would still be there when the party was over.
“I can’t miss this,” she said.