Nobody raises a banner better than Blackhawks
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It was a concert. A movie. A snow globe. A live-action photo album.
But most of all it was a glorious trip down memory lane for Blackhawks fans.
The Stanley Cup banner-raising ceremony Tuesday night at the United Center, the second one in four years, provided a little bit of something for everyone.
From the clever use of the entire ice surface as a video screen/photo album to the computer-generated light show each fan helped deliver simply by donning a wristwatchlike device that did all the heavy lighting.
From a recap of the season and the playoffs through video, still images and music -- a recap that got the memories flowing -- to the moment the lights were turned low and the music even lower and a solitary figure -- Duncan Keith -- emerged with the Stanley Cup, skating beneath the flickering white lights provided by the fans.
Once at center ice, Keith placed the Cup on a stand, and down from the videoboard a spotlight hit on the one piece of hardware everyone had worked so hard for.
The place erupted.
"To see the fans have that kind of support for us brought out the goose bumps," said Hawks forward Bryan Bickell.
It was just one of many times the sellout crowd roared its approval Tuesday night.
It did when emcee Eddie Olczyk welcomed them to the ceremony, and it did again when Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz walked to the podium to address the red-clad masses.
Instead of cheers, though, there were chants of "Rock-y, Rock-y, Rocky."
But as soon as the most beloved owner in Chicago began his speech by thanking NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, well, those cheers quickly turned to boos. The fans would let the commish have it again later when the Hawks comically tried but failed to sneak him in among the front-office staff intros.
It didn't work.
The fans couldn't stay angry at Wirtz, however, who got them back in his good graces by saying, "It took blood, sweat and guts to bring home our second Stanley Cup … in four years!"
After Keith had placed the Cup at center ice and after his teammates had been introduced, the final player to hit the ice was captain Jonathan Toews, who skated straight toward the Cup and gave it a big wet one.
"I was kind of jealous seeing Tazer giving it one last kiss," Bickell said. "I was like, 'Why does he get to do that?'"
Simple. Because he's the captain.
The denouement came when Hawks players skated over to receive their banner from a group of youth hockey players, unfurled it, and then carried it to the other end of the ice where it would begin it's slow climb to the rafters.
"Stanley Cup Champions 2013"
Earlier in the day, coach Joel Quenneville was asked what would be going through his mind as he watched the banner take its proper place.
"The great moments," he said. "You can look back on each round and get a smile on your face. The ending probably will be the one that jumps out the most -- the last 17 seconds at Boston."
Bickell said it was hard not getting too caught up in the pregame ceremony. But the house lights coming on certainly helped.
"You're riding a high, you're so happy, and then you're like, oh, jeez, we have two minutes," he said. "We've got to get ready for a game."
BTW, the Hawks won 6-4.
Before the season-opening win, team president John McDonough hinted at more big things to come from this team.
"I can assure everyone that there is a humble, young group of Blackhawks on the 2013-14 roster," McDonough said. "It's our life's work …to make you proud."
On this night, just like that night in late June, that's just what the Blackhawks did.
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