Blackhawks Celebration Overflows Streets and Packs Soldier Field

By Naimah Latif

Nothing unites a city like a winning team.

On Monday, June 15, patrons sat at bars and restaurants where TV sets were tuned into the final hockey championship game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightening at Chicago’s United Center. They erupted in jubilee when the final bell sounded at the score of 4-2, signaling a 2015 Stanley Cup Championship win for the Chicago Blackhawks. Already a big celebration was in the making.

Fans started streaming into downtown Chicago early Thursday morning, June 18, in anticipation of the grand parade. It seemed like every Chicagoan was a hockey fan on this day, wearing a red Blackhawks jersey in honor of the championship team, or at least some version of the Blackhawks logo on a T-Shirt. Strangers greeted each other with smiles and high-fives. Everybody was happy to feel like a winner on this day that started out cloudy and rainy and ended with bright sunshine.

The parade kicked off at 10am, with team members waving from double decker red buses to the hoards of cheering fans along the street, many holding cell phones poised to capture the moment. Celebrating crowds stood and waved all along the parade route starting from the United Center and beginning at Jefferson Street, running along Monroe Street, winding through downtown Chicago, over the river and past Michigan Avenue, ending up at Millenium Park.

Meanwhile, a moving sea of red flowed steadily into Soldier Field, packing the 63,000 seat stadium from top to bottom with fans young and old ready to cheer their heroes. Two big screens at the south end of the stadium kept fans waiting inside Soldier Field abreast of the whereabouts of the Blackhawks team riding along the parade route. The screens periodically displayed highlights from the 2015 season as the overflow crowd waited anxiously for the players’ arrival and finally when parade buses were shown heading to the jam packed stadium, a roar of excited anticipation spread throughout the crowd.

Blackhawks TV announcer Pat Foley acted as Master of Ceremonies, kicking off the rally with Jim Cornelion’s opera-style rendition of the National Anthem. A long line of sports casters marched across the stage, joined by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner, both clad in Blackhawks T-Shirts.

The crowd went wild at the introduction of Blackhawks star Patrick Kane, who introduced Team Captain Jonathan Toews (pronounced “tayvz”), who came on stage and hoisted the 2015 Stanley Cup trophy in the air.

“We all grew up dreaming of winning the Stanley Cup, and we know this is amazing to be able to hoist this thing,” Toews told the thousands of red clad cheering fans. “But to do it on home ice and in front of you guys and in front of our fans and to share this with you guys, the best fans in the world, it doesn’t get any better than this!”

As each player was introduced to appreciative cheers from the crowd, some hoisted the Stanley Cup in the air as a sign of victory, some even kissed it, before going down the line and shaking the hands of the dignitaries on stage.

Among those honored was Blackhawks Owner and Chairman Rocky Wirtz. Foley’s introduction of Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville was the signal for fans to begin yelling “Q!” in celebration of their winning coach.

A particularly touching moment in the celebration came when Blackhawks player Kris Versteeg escorted to the stage young C.J. Reif the son of the team’s Equipment Manager Clint Reif who passed away during the season. Versteeg picked him up and the crowd greeted C.J. with cheers while the team honored him with high-fives.

Foley also honored past Blackhawks players Bobby Hull, Denis Savard and Tony Esposito, introducing the now grey-haired and balding athletes to the thunderous applause of the crowd.

The celebration concluded with a song and a shower of confetti rained down on the 63 thousand plus enthusiastic fans at Soldier Field.

The city estimates that approximately 2 million people attended the parade and rally in honor of the Blackhawks’ third Stanley Cup title in the last six years.

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