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Article posted: 6/12/2013 9:11 PM

Hawks revel in rock-star status

Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.com Blackhawks fans are all red as they make their way into the United Center before Wednesday night's game one of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Boston Bruins.

Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.com Blackhawks fans are all red as they make their way into the United Center before Wednesday night's game one of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Boston Bruins.

 
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If you look at the popularity of the Blackhawks now, it's hard to think back to the mid-2000s when the United Center was half empty for games and the NHL was basically off the sports map around town.

Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith remembers because he lived it.

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"It's changed quite a bit, especially the last five or six years," Keith said. "Two Stanley Cup Finals now. Before, I would come in here and sit up in the stands if you weren't playing in an exhibition game and nobody cared or knew who you were.

"I've always been proud to be a Blackhawk and proud to play in this city, but I think when we drafted (Patrick) Kane and (Jonathan) Toews, we started to add some good wily veterans and we kind of turned the corner a little bit. Then Q (Joel Quenneville) came in as coach and Rocky (Wirtz) took over, put us back on TV, and it kind of snowballed."

Keith loves playing for Quenneville.

"He doesn't overdo things," Keith said. "Whether it's meetings, just holding court, talking to the players, he keeps that presence about him that when he does come in the room, has something to say, we listen. He's not in there holding meetings every day, wearing guys out.

"I think he's just really a fair coach. He demands a lot, but he's fair. I think he's seen a lot as a player and as a coach and I think it helps him keep that level head, stay on even keel. I think that rubs off on the team."

Kane says it's difficult to even go out in public now -- but he doesn't mind it.

"Whether it's just walking down the street to try to go to a movie, go to dinner, something like that, there's always a few people that recognize you," Kane said. "You kind of learn to wear the hat down low by your eyes, keep the head down and keep walking.

"There are great fans in Chicago. I think you'd rather have them recognize you than not recognize you. It just shows how great of a hockey city it is, that's how excited they are now."

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