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Article updated: 6/25/2013 12:39 AM

Blackhawks fans celebrate, await team's return

By Eric Peterson

Mondays just never feel this good!

Though local Blackhawks fans would have loved to have been in Boston to see their heroes claim the Stanley Cup, Roadwatch Party headquarters at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill in Rosemont was undoubtedly the next best place.

The cavernous bar packed in about 500 fans and definitely showed it could deliver the decibels as fans cheered, screamed and sang "Chelsea Dagger" louder and louder with each successive Hawks goal.

But the loudest noise of all came as the television sets throughout the venue showed a shot of the Stanley Cup being polished minutes before the final buzzer.

The opportunity to see the Hawks clinch the championship in person at the United Center on Wednesday always stood as potential consolation prize for several fans in Rosemont Monday.

It was a gift they were more than happy to exchange.

"I have tickets for Game 7," a feather-headressed Ken Whitman of Wonder Lake confessed before Monday's game. "But that being the case, I want them to win tonight! Don't put me through that! This has been a long enough series!"

Steve Braband of Chicago faced a similar dilemma but was in complete agreement with Whitman on its resolution.

"Even though I hae tickets for Game 7, I don't want it to come down to one game, one goal," Braband said.

Braband is a regular attendee of the Roadwatch Parties and has seen the crowds growing. But he was impressed to see Toby Keith's was a bar more than capable of handling this.

"It's a bigger bar!" he said. "I think there's more people here than I've ever seen!"

Toby Keith's was not only the home base for the Blackhawks' local fans -- looked after throughout the game by the ladies of the Bud Light Ice Crew -- but the team's executives and their guests had the upper floor to themselves.

But the bar's management hoped their facility would be able to make one more claim to fame in the morning -- the first local stop on the team's victory lap with the Stanley Cup.

Service Manager Candi Harrison hoped the team would make the redeye flight from Boston. And being perched right next door to O'Hare International Airport, Toby Keith's would be a logical oasis, she said.

"We'll stay open until 8 a.m. if we have to!" she said.

Triumphant fans moved from their hours-long perches in front of television sets to hit the bar's dance floor and celebrate with the live band that began playing.

Bob Wettstein of Arlington Heights said the Roadwatch Parties are always the best place to be if one can't watch the games in person.

"There's something to be said about being around a lot of people," he said. "Watching at home, you don't get the same atmosphere."

Fellow Arlington Heights resident Gina Podwika's own wishes were also fulfilled by watching the Hawks win Game 6 from a Roadwatch Party."I'd like them to be home, but I don't want to face that seventh game," she said. "It's a great reason to be here with all these great people!"

The Blackhawks trailed 1-0 after the first period, which a cause for concern at Warren's Ale House in Wheaton.

"The Blackhawks need to put on the pressure and stop playing on the heels of their skates," said David Balsewicz of Winfield.

Jim and Judy Kranjc of Wheaton were split on their early outlook.

Jim said he "had a good feeling," while Judy admitted she was "a bit nervous."

After the game, fans were euphoric at the Cubby Bear North in Lincolnshire.

"That was a phenomenal finish. They never gave up," said Nate Richards of Buffalo Grove.

"They're not just out there playing for themselves; they're playing for the fans that supported them."

Daily Herald photographers Mark Black and Dave Dvorak contributed to this report.

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