CHICAGO - The Chicago Blackhawks brought the Stanley Cup home Tuesday and proceeded to take it on a pub crawl, with scores of ecstatic fans flocking to taverns and restaurants in hopes of catching a glimpse of their beloved players and the sacred trophy awarded to the NHL champion.
Many fans, bleary eyed from staying up the night before to watch Game 6, looked to the skies for TV news helicopters that would alert them they were on the right track. Others set themselves up at bars.
"We've been packed since 7 this morning." said Brad Tice, general manager of The Pony on Chicago's North Side. "In 2010 (the last time the Blackhawks won the cup) it came here, and players hang out here and live in the neighborhood, so everyone is hoping it will show up."
The trophy that turns into a drinking buddy once it is awarded to the National Hockey League champions had already put in a pretty full day. Though it hadn't made it to the runway of a strip club or the bottom of a swimming pool - just two of the many places that players have taken it over the years - it did make the rounds, stopping at two restaurants and the United Center, where the Blackhawks play, and a downtown steakhouse.
"I'm shaking, that was so cool," said 21-year-old Anne Fernandez after she reached out and touched the cup as Blackhawks President and CEO John McDonough pulled it out of a black SUV in front of Phil Stefani's restaurant and held it aloft as so many players had on the ice in Boston the night before after their series-clinching win over the Bruins.
At about 4 a.m., the jet carrying the players and the Cup touched down at O'Hare International Airport, where they received a water cannon salute from about a dozen fire trucks and police cars, all with their lights flashing.
Veteran forward Michal Handzus was the first player to emerge from the aircraft shortly after 4 a.m., hoisting the 35-pound cup above his head with both hands and shaking it several times. Players, coaches and team officials mingled with the crowd for about 10 minutes before heading to continue the party that began in Chicago shortly after the team stunned Boston by scoring twice in a 17-second span during the final 1:16 of the game.