Blackhawks autograph session Day 1 in Vernon Hills: Hossa and Teravainen

  • Todd Regan and son Jack, 12, of Libertyville get close to Blackhawks veteran Marian Hossa on Friday at Westfield Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills. Also there was Teuvo Teravainen, the youngest player on the team.

      Todd Regan and son Jack, 12, of Libertyville get close to Blackhawks veteran Marian Hossa on Friday at Westfield Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills. Also there was Teuvo Teravainen, the youngest player on the team. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Blackhawks fans line up to meet and get autographs from Marian Hossa and Teuvo Teravainen on Friday at Westfield Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills.

      Blackhawks fans line up to meet and get autographs from Marian Hossa and Teuvo Teravainen on Friday at Westfield Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/19/2015 10:20 PM

Her eyes sparkled like the little girl who watched the Blackhawks all those years ago, and the excitement Friday after meeting her favorite player was palpable even to a stranger.

"I have watched the Blackhawks since I was 9 years old. I'm 74," said a beaming Sharon Kegebein moments after getting a picture autographed and sharing a kind word with Marian Hossa, the sturdy right winger who played all 105 regular season and playoff games for the Stanley Cup champs.

 

"Hossa is the strongest skater I've ever seen, and I've seen all the big guys," added Kegebein, who traveled to Vernon Hills from Geneva. She told Hossa that and also mentioned how exciting this all was. So did hundreds of others who kept the Hawks' love and championship vibe rolling at Westfield Hawthorn shopping center in Vernon Hills.

An estimated 1,200 tickets were sold for a two-hour autograph session and maybe a picture with veteran Hossa, a core player who has won three Stanley Cups with the team, and 20-year-old center Teuvo Teravainen, who joined the club two years ago.

Jerseys, team photos, pucks, sticks and other items slid smoothly in front of the pair, who were seated at different tables. And no one complained about the $79 per item cost of an autograph.

The session was staged by Sideline Sports Marketing & Memorabilia, a store in the mall that holds exclusive appearance rights with athletes. Six other Blackhawks appeared at Westfield earlier this year, but the buzz wasn't the same.

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"We definitely with this round have gotten 20 times more phone calls. It hasn't stopped," said Jeff Rutzen, Westfield marketing manager. "The celebration finished up at Soldier Field and continues at Hawthorn."

Kegebein came with her son, Andy.

"We came for Hossa. That's my mom's favorite and that's what we got her," he said.

Many suburbs near and far from the mall were represented by fans of all ages. Fans from Schaumburg, Libertyville, Crystal Lake, Naperville and other communities left the signing tables smiling and content with a new addition to their collection or a timely gift for Father's Day.

Beth Flores of Mundelein heard about the signing Friday morning while changing a diaper on 6-month-old daughter, Isabella, and decided to surprise her husband, David, a big Hawks fan who missed the victory parade in Chicago on Thursday.

"I said, 'Oh gosh, this would be perfect for him because he wanted so much to go downtown,'" she said.

She got her husband to the mall under the guise of buying a new sport coat for a wedding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"When she told me, I went nuts," said David of the chance to get his first Hawks autograph. He also had a brief exchange with the congenial Hossa.

"I said, `Congratulations' to him. He said, `Thanks so much, buddy.' I said, `Let's do it again.' He said, 'For sure.' " Jessica LaRoi of Libertyville said he was "being a good daughter" and getting her dad, John a signed picture.

"I didn't expect it to be this much, but my dad loves the Hawks and it's Father's Day. Perfect timing," LaRoi said.

For some, this was just the first stop of the night, as there were other Hawks autographs to be had at Yorktown Center in Lombard. Bob Kelderhouse of Naperville had the game program from Monday night's clincher enlarged into a poster. He said he did the same with the 2010 and 2013 championships. He managed to get all but one player from each of those teams to sign.

"I'm going to get the entire team on this," he said.

However, the prize for originality went to 21-year old Nicole Banach of Schaumburg, who was first in line at the Hossa table.

Before he arrived, Banach jotted her number on a blank piece of paper and asked him to text her. That wasn't to be, but she left with a personalized photo and a handshake.

"I'm actually shaking right now, I'm so excited," she said.

@dhmickzawislak

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