More than a thousand die-hard fans helped the Chicago Blackhawks continue celebrating their second Stanley Cup title in four seasons, erupting in cheers as the team -- and the Holy Grail of hockey -- filed into Harry Caray's in Rosemont before sunrise.
Players took turns hoisting the 120-year-old storied trophy above their heads as they headed to the private party, fresh off their miracle 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins thanks to two late, third-period goals in just 17 seconds.
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The team's chartered plane touched down at about 4 a.m. at O'Hare International Airport's private terminal, greeted by fire trucks spraying a water cannon and fans behind fences hoping to catch a glimpse. Buses then made the short trip to the Italian steakhouse on Higgins Road.
"This is completely amazing," said Willis Morgan, a 24-year-old electrical engineer from Glen Ellyn. "I watched the game at work on my phone and then we came right over. Having the Stanley Cup back in Chicago is unbelievable."
Rosemont Mayor Bradley Stephens and Harry Caray's staff estimated the crowd to be at least two or three times the size as in 2010, when the team's first celebratory stop was a closely guarded secret.
Stephens, who witnessed the triple overtime Game 1 victory at the United Center, described himself as a fan and, like most in the crowd, was full of energy despite a lack of sleep.
"These guys are creatures of habit, so we knew they planned to stop by," Stephens said. "Whatever we can do to welcome the Blackhawks, we're happy to do that."
Stephens jokingly added that when, not if, the Cubs leave Wrigley Field to build a stadium in Rosemont, that team also can show off the World Series trophy.
Players, all donning their gray Stanley Cup champion hats, stayed for about an hour before taking off for their next destination, which ended up being Scout bar in the South Loop with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel reportedly among the guests.
But defenseman Johnny Oduya wasn't about to share their morning agenda when he came outside briefly to greet fans and address the media.
The still-bearded Oduya did say he was trying to soak up every moment.
"We wait a lifetime for something like this," Oduya said.
Coach Joel Quenneville agreed, saying there were some unbelievable games in this playoff run, none more amazing than Monday night's.
"When you win the Cup, it doesn't get any better," Quenneville said. "I just love the enthusiasm we have from everybody here and we'll share it with the people of Chicago. It's special."
With all the noise, fanfare and friends and family surrounding the team, a few bold fans managed to blend in with Quenneville and the others to sneak into the private party before getting the heave-ho.
Among them was Lake in the Hills resident Michael Lyp, who stuck around inside long enough to touch the Stanley Cup.
"I just acted like I fit in and it worked for a while," Lyp said. "Even though I got kicked out, it was well worth it."
Though the procession into Harry Caray's was quickly over, one South Elgin family said that enduring the five-hour-long wait and brief rainfall was well worth it.
Rick Pecora was all set to go to bed after the Hawks clinched the championship, only to be persuaded by young fans Krystal, 10, and Savannah, 13, to drive to Rosemont.
"I put on a big cup of coffee and decided to make some memories with my daughters," Pecora said. "But I hope they appreciate it. I waited my whole life for one championship and they've got two already."