City leaders wowed by new Blackhawks training facility
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Two ice rinks. Twenty-two locker rooms. A workout room. A shot simulator, media room, kitchens, coaches' offices.
And a gorgeous never-been-used-before Blackhawks locker room.
There's all of that and more inside the Hawks' new 125,000-square-foot MB Ice Arena located just blocks from the United Center. It will open in the coming weeks, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Blackhawks President and CEO John McDonough, and owner Rocky Wirtz gave a sneak peek of the facility to community officials and leaders Thursday.
"Kids cannot be what they cannot see," Emanuel said. "They may not make it to a Blackhawks game, but because we now have a community ice-skating rink … we're going to make sure that the kids here on the West side are exposed to not only the sport, but the discipline that comes with that sport, the professionalism that comes along with that sport and the sense of the team."
Said McDonough: "We look at this being an exclamation point on this neighborhood in this city for many, many years."
The privately funded facility cost $65 million to build and will serve as the Blackhawks' practice home. Visiting NHL teams may also use the arena, but local high schools, recreational leagues and youth teams such as Chicago Mission, Chicago Stallions and Chicago Jets will be the primary users. Chicago Mission and St. Ignatius College Prep will use the facility full-time.
"The West side has been very, very good to our family and the Jerry Reinsdorf family for many, many years," Wirtz said. "We're here to stay."
Former Blackhawks forward Daniel Carcillo will be on-site at times to assist kids with their off-ice training, as well as helping them with their shots by using the Rapid Shot Hockey Training System.
Carcillo demonstrated the system -- which shows players the spots in the net they're having the biggest difficulty hitting -- and then gave Emanuel a chance as well. The mayor hit a few targets, then deadpanned: "All I needed was a picture of Trump."
After the tour ended, Wirtz reflected on how far the Hawks have come since he hired John McDonough a decade ago.
"My son Danny, who is now 40, when he was growing up it was all about the Chicago Wolves," Wirtz said. "There was nothing about the Hawks. So in the last 10 years we've really tried to embrace the community and this is sort of the icing on the cake."
As he has several times this year, Emanuel lauded the Hawks' efforts to grow the game and to help the residents on the West side.
"It's one thing just to entertain us," Emanuel said. "It's another thing to make sure you invest in the people of the city of Chicago.
"John has led that effort, like Rocky, in making sure that the Blackhawks are more than just a team in Chicago that we root for. But then give something back to people who have given them so much.
"If you have that culture, you have a winning team."
• Twitter: @johndietzdh