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updated: 4/16/2011 8:40 PM

Roadwatch concept hits home in Lake County

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  • Fans who attended a Blackhawks party at the Libertyville Sports Complex last week react to action from the Blackhawks' game against Detroit, which was shown on a large screen.

    Fans who attended a Blackhawks party at the Libertyville Sports Complex last week react to action from the Blackhawks' game against Detroit, which was shown on a large screen.


The tall, long-legged Ice Crew girl, who would look good standing in front of Roberto Luongo because, well, the Blackhawks need somebody other than rookie Ben Smith willing to distract Vancouver's goalie, smiled warmly.

Or maybe that's just how I choose to remember her.

She handed fans Blackhawks rally towels.

Other Ice Crew girls did Denis Savard impressions, too, distributing pinpoint deliveries. Foam, toy hockey masks. Raffle tickets. Even travel-sized sticks of deodorant for your favorite little smelly hockey guy. So precise were the dishes from these Blackhawks gear-wearing girls that you didn't have to break stride.

And speaking of Denis Savard, good ol' No, 18 was there, too, at the Libertyville Sports Complex for the facility's big Blackhawks roadwatch party. The temptation is to call it the "inaugural" bash because it was so well-received two Fridays ago that you have to hope there are more to come.

Connie Kowal: He shoots!... He scoooooores!

"It was a terrific event," said Kowal, the sports complex's first-year director of recreation, who once worked for the Cubs, who once employed Blackhawks president John McDonough, too.

"Hit my expectations and then some," Kowal added. "The Blackhawks logo has four feathers. The Libertyville Sports Complex and the village got a 'feather in our hat' (April 8). ... We knocked it out of the park."

Some 500 people, the majority of them wearing replica jerseys of their favorite Blackhawk, packed the "park," which for a night was "United Center North." There was also some guy wearing a strange Chris Chelios No. 24 sweater. It was half Blackhawks jersey, half Redwings jersey. Interesting. But, please, even half a Detroit jersey seemed unwelcome on a night the Blackhawks played the Wings in a crucial, late regular-season game.

Fans watched on a giant screen and erupted when Brent Seabrook scored 27 seconds into the game. Chelsea Dagger blared over the speakers. The aforementioned Smith scored his first NHL goal. Brian Campbell had the Blackhawks up 3-0 after one period, and they won 4-2.

Before it all started, tenor Jim Cornelison belted out the national anthem like only he can. He could be heard from Antioch to Highland Park.

Before Cornelison busted eardrums, Libertyville mayor Terry Weppler read a proclamation. He was joined onstage by Kowal (it was the only time he stood still all night), hall-of-famer Savard and the Blackhawks mascot, Tommy Hawk, who playfully put fans' heads in his large mouth every time they posed for a picture with him.

If you love the Blackhawks, you had to love Kowal's try at hosting a party for the defending Stanley Cup champs.

If you love a fun time, future roadwatch parties are a must-attend event, no matter your age.

As adults watched the game, kids played floor hockey.

A little girl wearing a "Niemi 31" jersey said, "Yes!"

Kowal appreciated the ambience that the floor hockey rat game provided, calling it "so cool."

And so cool was the night.

"The Blackhawks organization was blown away by how it turned out," Kowal said.

David Knickerbocker, the Blackhawks senior executive director of marketing and business development, took it all in.

Blackhawks fans were heard.

"He said we broke the mold as to how they might look at their roadwatch parties," Kowal said, "and would love to do it again at the Libertyville Sports Complex."

Kowal added that he also got calls from his old buddy McDonough and executive VP Jay Blunk offering their "hearty congratulations."

"It was an unbelievable atmosphere," Kowal said.

If you missed the party, don't throw in the towel. I believe it will be back. Along with the rally towels.