Southlanders share in Hawks’ glory
There was no way Todd Mayer and son Tristan were going to miss Friday’s downtown celebration honoring the Blackhawks and their Stanley Cup victory.
Todd took the day off, and Tristan found a coworker willing to trade work days.
That’s why they were among the crowd that caught the 8:13 a.m. train Friday morning in Oak Lawn, whisking them to a sea of red that swept over downtown Chicago from Union Station to Grant Park.
A steady flow of fans walked from train stations to get a good vantage point along the parade route.
Others camped out — Chicago police said some arrived as early as 4:30 a.m. — in Grant Park for the post-parade rally.
“It’s going to be a good time. We went to the last one, but it wasn’t this crowded,” Todd said before boarding the train.
Tristan, 18, is fortunate to be living in the glory era of Chicago sports, his father said, noting the White Sox, Hawks and Bulls’ success the past 22 years.
“I had to wait until the Bears won the Super Bowl,” Todd, 51, said. “He’s lucky.”
So is Ausra Brooks, 30.
She grew up in Chicago’s Marquette Park neighborhood and moved to Vermont seven years ago. She just happened to be home for a two-week vacation that coincided with the Blackhawks’ most recent success.
“Perfect timing,” she said.
The train ride downtown was packed, much like the United Center, which over the past several weeks had hosted standing-room-only crowds that saw the Blackhawks win their second Cup in four seasons.
Nearly everyone — except those unfortunately going to work — wore something with the team’s distinctive Indianhead logo. Former coach Denis Savard once famously told his team to “commit to the Indian.” Fans listened.
Brittany Sikora, 25, of Joliet, took it a step further and wore an Indian headdress.
“We got here at 6:30 this morning. We’re not bandwagoners,” she said.
Oh, really? Does the name Tony Amonte ring a bell?
“Who the hell was that?” she said of the star who last played for the Hawks in 2002.
Surely she knows Jeremy Roenick, a big name who donned a Hawks uniform from 1988-96?
“Hey, I’ve only been on the wagon for five years,” she said with a laugh.
She and her friends were perched at the corner of Washington Street and Michigan Avenue and caught a brief glimpse of the double-decker buses in the parade. The buses, some said, seemed to move faster than in the 2010 parade.
Fans rushed to Grant Park for the rally and tried to get a good view. But those who weren’t there early were stuck watching a live feed on a video screen near Buckingham Fountain.
Jim and Julie Sawislak, of Schaumburg, were disappointed by the wavering audio there.
“This is stupid,” Jim said of the sound, which eventually improved.
Jim said this year’s celebration was more organized than in 2010.
The crowd roared when Patrick Sharp thanked fans for making the United Center “the best place to play in the NHL.” And they really ate it up when he said, “What do you say we do it again next year?”
Patrick Kane got a big hand when he gave the team’s postgame wrestling belt, a locker room tradition saved for the game’s best player, to goalie Corey Crawford, calling him “the best player in the playoffs.” Kane had been awarded the Conn Smythe trophy, making him the official Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup Final.
Folks looked tired, but happy, on the packed 2:40 p.m. train back to Oak Lawn and points beyond. One fan enjoyed two 16-ounce Buds he snuck onto the train before the first stop.
Jason Farr, 24, of Oak Lawn, was happy he went.
“It was all worth it,” he said, “except our train car back didn’t have any air conditioning.”