Thousands party with Blackhawks at parade, rally
By STEFANO ESPOSITO, JON SEIDEL AND TINA SFONDELES Staff Reporters June 28, 2013 7:36AM
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Updated: July 30, 2013 8:46AM
They came from near and far, clad in the red and black of their battle-scarred heroes.
They poured into Chicago’s downtown. They endured a blazing sun.
Fans of the Chicago Blackhawks wanted a party Friday, and the chance to say thanks for a season that began and ended spectacularly.
And the team wasn’t disappointed.
“This is unbelievable,” said a hoarse Jonathan Toews, the team captain, taking in an ocean of red and black in Grant Park’s Hutchinson Field. “For the guys who were here in 2010, we didn’t believe there was a chance we could outmatch that performance by the fans, but you guys did it somehow. This shows how unbelievable this city is. Unbelievable. ... I can’t think of a better bunch of guys to represent this city — hard-working guys, down-to-earth guys that go out there and play for each other every single shift.”
The rally and parade — which drew upwards of 2 million spectators, slightly more than the 2010 event — had a little bit of everything.
Dads hoisted giddy little boys with ill-fitting Hawks caps up onto their shoulders. One man climbed to the top of a light pole on Jackson east of Michigan. People in the swarming crowd dared him to jump, but he eventually got down safely. Gov. Pat Quinn fell prey to the custom of mercilessly booing politicians at sporting events. And Hawks goalie Corey Crawford provided the best off-color moment of the day when he described his teammates as the “Biggest bunch of beauties in the league.”
“F------ worked their nuts off for this trophy,” Crawford said. “No one will ever take this away from us. We’re the champs!”
The event wasn’t without problems. The sun took a toll on some spectators, with paramedics having to treat 100 people at the rally — most for heat-related symptoms. Some 40 people were taken to area hospitals, although none were believed to have life-threatening conditions. Firefighters tossed countless water bottles into the crowd at the rally.
Police arrested one man along the parade route after they found a handgun in his pocket and a second gun in his backpack. Roger Harrison, 36, of Matteson, was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, according to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office. Harrison was due in bond court Saturday.
The revelry kicked off Friday morning with the players and front-office staff making their way to the Grant Park rally from the United Center in a convoy of red double-decker buses. Fans stood 20 to 30 deep at some points along the parade route, watching as Toews in the lead bus hoisted the gleaming cup above his head.
For some, the parade was little more than a “blur.”
“You could see who the players were, but they just went by so fast,” said Alex Laing, 21, of Huntley, who took a 6 a.m. train in from Kenosha with friends.
What about the cup?
“A shiny blur,” he said.
For others, there were no complaints.
“It was great to hear Corey Crawford,” said Travis Gauchay, 33, who lives on the Near North Side. “I think that’s the most emotion we’d ever heard from him. Good for him.”
At the rally, the players — sporting sunglasses and backward-turned ball caps — returned the love, telling fans they have no equal in the National Hockey League.
Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp was already planning for future glory: “What do you say we get back here and do it again next year?”
The raucous rally ended in an explosion of red, black and white ticker tape drifting across the field, with players — one by one — lifting up the cup, some planting a kiss on its silver skin as Chelsea Dagger boomed from the stage.
Contributing: Fran Spielman, Monifa Thomas, Nausheen Husain, Michael Lansu, James Scalzitti and Allison Horton.