Players get to see how badly fans miss hockey
By all accounts, Friday's "Champs for Charity" game at the Allstate Arena featuring many members of the 2010 Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks was a rousing success.
The proof is in the amount of money raised for Ronald McDonald House charities: $323,500, according to agent Bill Zito, one of the event's organizers along with client and ex-Hawk Adam Burish.
"It was unbelievable," Zito said. "We had not anticipated that. As a result of the game there's even more money coming in. We made a lot of money and had a blast.
"It's a special thing in Chicago, the hockey community. It's kind of reaffirming, how many nice people there are."
A crowd of 11,649 created a terrific atmosphere that made it feel like you were watching a Hawks game at the United Center. When Patrick Kane scored to tie the game at 15-15 with a little more than a minute to play, it sounded as if there were 21,000 in the building.
"It felt like it was a real game when the crowd erupted like that," Kane said. "It was a great event that was put together in a short amount of time. It was a fun time, and to get 11,000 people out here was special.
"It kind of shows you how many people are searching for hockey. It was fun to be back on the ice playing."
The charged-up atmosphere came as a surprise to Jonathan Toews.
"I had no idea (it would be like that)," Toews said of the crowd. "It just goes to show you we have some great hockey fans here in Chicago. It doesn't matter if it's us guys or the guys who came into town. The people in the building were excited to watch hockey."
Burish, who helped organized the game in a matter of weeks, was more than satisfied with the outcome (the World All-Stars won 16-15 in a shootout).
"I hope everyone had fun, because I did," Burish said. "It felt good to be tired again, to work again, to get a good sweat again. And having people cheering and screaming was fun again. It felt like we were back in the NHL again.
"It was a nice escape. It felt like we were playing a real game with NHL players, fans and officials. For a night, it felt like we were back in the NHL again."
Kane stole the show on the ice with 5 goals and was named the game's MVP, but it was his work behind the scenes that impressed Zito.
"Did you see how we had three kids drop the (ceremonial) puck?" Zito said. "There was only supposed to be two, but Kaner had been at the hospital and met some kid and said, 'Come on, you're coming to the game.'
"That kid, he came through for us huge. I'm really impressed with him," Zito said of Kane. "He did stuff that no one knew about. Even sticking around, he didn't have to stick around for the game.
"Everybody understood, he's got a deal in Switzerland, you've got to go. Just the way he handled himself the whole time, very mature and very responsible. I don't even know him, but I got the feeling it was in earnest."
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