Four members of the Blackhawks put down their hockey sticks to pick up baseball bats Friday.
Bryan Bickell, Sheldon Brookbank, Michal Handzus and Patrick Sharp came to Wrigley Field for a morning session of batting practice with the Cubs.
The Blackhawks are just a few days removed from losing a thrilling seven-game series to the Los Angeles Kings in the NHL playoffs. As disappointing as that was to the players and fans, the Hawks on hand at Wrigley said they feel the support of the city.
"I certainly feel that," Sharp said. "Trust me, nobody takes it harder than the fans. The players, we care so much. We want to keep playing. We wish we were playing right now. To see the amount of support the fans have given to not only myself but to the organization is the reason why Chicago is the best place to play hockey. They're proud of the team, and that means a lot to us."
The Hawks rallied from a three-games-to-one deficit in the Western Conference final and lost Game 7 in overtime.
"A lot of fans I've been seeing on the streets (say) they're still proud, and what a season," Bickell said. "They're so happy to be involved and being behind us like they are, to come from 3-1 and force Game 7 and having OT we had everybody on the edge of the chairs. We fell short. We're just going to be hungrier next year."
Both Bickell and Sharp said they both played baseball (center fielders) as kids growing up in Canada.
"I liked playing center field because I could run around and dive," Sharp said. "You can let the ball get a little bit ahead of you so you can make a sliding catch."
Fortunately for Hawks fans, hockey season lasts a little longer than baseball season up north.
"It wasn't the strongest baseball program in Thunder Bay, Ontario," Sharp said. "But my dad was my coach, and I have a lot of great memories playing baseball. Probably my favorite sport. It just so happened I was a little better at hockey than baseball."
As painful as the loss to the Kings was, Sharp said he's watching the Stanley Cup Final between L.A. and the New York Rangers.
The Hawks have set the bar high for other teams in Chicago, and Cubs manager Rick Renteria said he hopes his team can follow that success.
"They're an organization that's really turned it around," Renteria said. "They're a big part of the city of Chicago.
"Is that my hopes for us here? Absolutely. The process of turning anything around may seem daunting, but you keep chipping away, and it would be great for the Cubs to be a part of that landscape, a championship landscape."