Fans show they're ready for Hawks hockey
If you drove by the United Center late Monday afternoon, you probably thought a playoff hockey game was on the schedule.
"It's unbelievable," Marcus Kruger said. "I've never seen anything like that. Driving here before the game, to see all the fans around the building, it's pretty cool and that for sure will help us make the most of this year. We appreciate that a lot."
Rabid Blackhawks fans were lined up waiting to get inside, but not necessarily to watch a meaningful game.
Rather, the UC was packed to the rafters for a team scrimmage in advance of Tuesday night's preseason opener against the Detroit Red Wings.
After spending the first four days of training camp at Notre Dame, the Hawks were happy to be back on home ice as they aim for their third Stanley Cup trophy in six years.
"We're in a good spot," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We like our team, and we're fortunate to play here in Chicago. Just being around outside, it's crazy already. People are excited about our team.
"The internal competition, internal pressure, is high, but that's a healthy way to be as a coach. Let's make sure we're excited to get started, knowing how tough our division and conference are going to be."
In Monday night's scrimmage, the White team, coach by Kevin Dineen, beat the Red, coached by Mike Kitchen, 5-1. Kruger scored 2 goals for the winners, while Jeremy Morin, Jonathan Toews and Mark McNeill each had 1. Cam Barker scored for the Red team.
It was the first time newcomer Brad Richards played at the United Center in a home jersey. The veteran center, who was with the Rangers last season, signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Hawks on July 1.
After playing with Tampa Bay, Dallas and New York, the 34-year-old Richards was on the receiving end of some big applause Monday night.
"Very impressive," he said. "For a Red and White intrasquad, I've never played in front of something like that. It just makes you feel better about choosing to come here, and all the stories are true that the fans are amazing.
"We all know the building's amazing when you play against them here. It's nice to have the jersey on with them."
Richards is going to center the Hawks' No. 2 line between wingers Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad.
"It's early," Richards said. "We're just trying to build a chemistry. Our line had some good looks tonight, especially myself. I probably could have put a few in the net. I didn't, but save those for important games. Just work with these guys and get to know them and learn how they play."
Quenneville expects the revamped No. 2 line to start coming together during the preseason.
"(Richards) is in a good situation," Quenneville said. "Hopefully, that line can be a line all year long and give us some nice production offensively and have some responsibility without (the puck). But he's playing with some nice players. That has some upside to it, and I'm sure he's excited about that."