For the second time in four years, a crowd estimated by the city of Chicago at more than two million people helped the Blackhawks celebrate a Stanley Cup championship on Friday.
Other than a few complaints that the open-topped buses carrying the players were going too fast along the parade route, the sun-drenched celebration came off without a hitch.
And the crowd that jammed Grant Park partied like it was 2010 all over again.
“Thank you for coming out and supporting us all season long,” said Hawks winger Patrick Sharp, one of five players who spoke. “You guys make the United Center and the city of Chicago and best place to play in all the NHL.
“We’ve got a special team here and a special organization and special group of people celebrating with us tonight. We’re just so proud that we could bring this to a great city like Chicago. In 2010 you guys waited 49 years to do this. This year we waited three. What do you say we get back and do it again next year?”
The parade wound its way through the city streets as the players were showered with confetti and cheered by screaming fans. When the parade ended at Grant Park the players were met by what looked like a sea of red.
Jonathan Toews was left in charge of the Stanley Cup, which he hoisted when introduced last, held aloft and kissed.
One sign along the parade route read: “Best 17 seconds of my life,” referring to the pair of goals Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scored in a 17-second span in the final two minutes of Monday’s 3-2 clinching win over the Boston Bruins in Game 6.
“I don’t think it has (sunk in) yet,” Bolland said. “I think it’s still just roaming around in the air that I scored. I still look back at it and still can’t believe it. It’s a kid’s dream to score that goal. And I did it. It’s big and I’ll ride with it right now.
“We put the banner up three years ago, so we knew this year as a team that we could do it. We had the depth. We had everything that could take us the whole way. We did everything and did it as a team.”
Winger Patrick Kane lugged out the bulky Conn Smythe Trophy, which he won as the MVP of the playoffs.
“The only reason this day is fun is because of all you guys coming out and supporting this team,” Kane told the crowd. “It makes hockey fun.”
Kane then pulled out a bag that contained “the belt,” which the players present to one of their own after games, and called on goaltender Corey Crawford.
“I got a little present here,” Kane said. “It’s a trophy we give out after every game — the belt — and I think it should go to the best player in the playoffs, No. 50, Corey Crawford.”
What followed was the only blue moment of the afternoon, and likely made Hawks management cringe.
“(Expletive) right, Chicago,” Crawford said. “Biggest bunch of beauties in the league, (expletive) worked their nuts off for this trophy. No one will ever take this away from us. We’re the champs.”
Hawks TV voice and master of ceremonies Pat Foley then called on Toews with a fitting introduction.
“This guy, as you all know, he does it all,” Foley said. “Wins faceoffs, scores big goals, kills penalties and does everything else in between. At this point in this city, I don’t need a name. I don’t need a number. All we need to say is the captain, and he’s got a little something for you.”
Enter Toews carrying the Stanley Cup.
“Wow, it’s tough to follow that speech by Corey Crawford,” said Toews. “This is unbelievable. For the guys that were here in 2010, we didn’t think there was a chance that we could outmatch that performance by the fans, but you guys did it somehow.
“This shows how unbelievable this city is. I can’t think of a better team and a better bunch of guys to represent this city — hardworking guys, down to earth guys that go out there and play for each other every single shift. It represents this city and what it means. To bring the Stanley Cup home twice in four years is absolutely unbelievable.”
Ÿ Follow Tim’s hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.