Video recap of the 2010 Blackhawks Convention from BHTV
This past weekend, a few thousand Blackhawks fans took to the Hilton Chicago en masse to celebrate this year's Stanley Cup victory and to get the chance to spend some time with their favorite athletes.
The Convention opened on Friday; registration was available starting at lunchtime, but the big events started at 5pm. In the meantime, you could wander around the dealer's room, check out some interactive attractions, and hang out with other fans. A lot of other fans.
I don't know the exact number of tickets that they sell for the Convention; it was sold out pretty well in advance this year, and they had no single-day passes available at the door. I've been to more conventions than I'd care to admit to over the past 20 years, so I'm pretty used to handling waiting lines, crowds, and registration, but this was a new experience.
Nothing was clearly marked when you walked into the hotel, and it turned out the main information booth was downstairs, so if you came in on the Balbo side of the building, you had to ask people to point you towards the convention areas. Walking in from the Michigan Avenue side of the building was a different story; a long line of people snaked through the entry halls, hoping to make it into the main ballroom, and other fans would willingly tell you where you needed to go.
The time was just after 3pm; registration had opened at noon, and the main ballroom, where the Opening Ceremonies would be held, was already mostly full. They would only let a few more folks into the ballroom from the line, and the rest would end up being sent down to the other ballroom, where a pair of video feeds were set up. If you coming to the Convention from work or were otherwise a "late arrival" (even 2+ hours before the first event), no seat in the main room for you.
Additionally, it was surprising that neither ballroom was set up with seats for the opening night, which meant that people were not fit as efficiently into either ballroom as could have been. Having been to a lot of conventions where tiered ticket pricing often means guaranteed seats, I would much rather have paid a little extra and been guaranteed a seat in the main ballroom.
Knowing I wouldn't get into the main ballroom, I ended up wandering around the fan area downstairs. There were some games set up for kids, a place to take pictures with a locker room setup and your favorite player's jersey, and a Blackhawks store.
Little kids in goalie gear never get old.
I was really surprised to walk around a corner and find myself amid all the top NHL trophies! We're not just talking the Conn Smythe and the Norris that Toews and Keith won - all of the singular honor trophies. Some were protected by cases, but a few were open.
Conn Smythe - Jonathan Toews' name is already on it, the last leaf on the right, bottom row on the left side of the trophy. Somebody distracted me when I was about to photograph his tag, and then I forgot to go back and capture it more closely.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (front) and Calder Memorial Trophy
Detail of the Vezina Trophy. As a goalie fan, this is of course my favorite of the individual trophies. The front of the trophy has a pair of goalie sticks and it's crowned with a silver hockey puck, but my favorite detail was this - a little goalie net in the heart of it.
There was game-worn autographed gear and equipment up for silent auction, plus there was an area where you could buy used gear - leg socks, skates, sticks, etc.
Game-worn skates autographed by Patrick Sharp
Selection of players' sticks for sale, both current and past players. They were listing at $150 on the first two days. I was eying one of two sticks labeled "Versteeg" - and of course by the time I made up my mind to go back and buy it, they were gone.
I asked one of the equipment guys and he said that most of the sticks had never been used, that players either ended up not liking particular sticks, or in the case of departed players, may never have gotten around to using all the equipment. The sticks that didn't get sold would be used in rookie or training camp.
Fans waiting for the simulcast of the Opening Ceremonies to start in the downstairs ballroom.
I've already shared videos from the Opening Ceremonies, so here's a few more pictures from the Second City part of the evening:
Brent Seabrook puts Patrick Sharp on the spot during the "Dr. Know-it-All" skit. For this exercise, the players and actors had to answer questions one word at a time, in sequence. Seabrook did his best to set up Sharp for some good lines, in this case, in answer to the question, "Where is Jonathan Toews?"
Saturday was loaded with panels and player signings. They only gave out 315 wristbands per player signing, but they went very quickly - and, like seats for the Opening Ceremonies, if you weren't there early, forget it.
Fans waiting for the next signing to take place
I went to the Blackhawks TV panel on Saturday morning, which had Niklas Hjalmarsson and Troy Brouwer as well as the guys responsible for the BHTV programming, Adam Kempenaar and Patrick Dahl. They played various BHTV clips and discussed lots of fun, behind-the-scenes tidbits.
At one point during the panel, the moderator turned to Troy and asked, "So, because of the video [featuring the team playing Mario Kart], you've got a reputation of a video controller-thrower." Brouwer insisted, "It was just that once!" Hjalmarsson deadpanned, "No, it wasn't."
It was a really funny panel - Kempenaar and Dahl talked about the way they came up with ideas, and admitted that while sometimes they were met with a little resistance, the players would come around - especially after they saw really fun videos that their teammates had participated in.
When asked which player took the most crap from his teammates for his video, Brouwer pointed to Hjalmarrson, and mimicked his "Aspelund" perfectly.
The BHTV team also discussed filming the "Mini-Olympics" video, stating that Toews had at first been "a little reluctant", but that once they got him into the act, his competitive drive kicked in.
They also mentioned that since they are supposed to keep to a budget, sometimes they have to "get creative", such as "going in to ask for $1,000 to get speed-skating uniforms".
Local sports personality Sarah Kustok was on hand to host the "Road Warriors" segment, but I headed upstairs to see what Stan Bowman, Al MacIssac, and Kevin Cheveldayoff had to say about the team heading into the 2010-11 season.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to catch very much of the panel that followed this one - the "2010 Olympics: a Golden Moment", but there was some ribbing going on between Kane and the three gold-winning Canadians, and the crowd chanted out, "USA, USA".
Eddie Olczyk, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook
Brent Seabrook and Patrick Kane
My favorite shirt-spotting of the weekend
One of the most fun items and unique items I saw was the scarves created by this guy, Bob. He doesn't have a website yet, but if you're interested in his work - he says it can be customized for various sizes, etc - contact him at "EMD820" [at] AOL.com. Planning to get one of these myself before winter!
The big event on Saturday night was the "Blackhawks Bash" - party time with the fans and live band kareoke!
Kyle Beach and Shawn Lalonde got into the fun and sang Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" and signed some autographs after. Unlike the first two Conventions, there were almost no players at the Bash (just search YouTube for videos from 2008 and 2009 of various players - especially Kris Versteeg - doing kareoke - dammit, I miss Versteeg already), although between Friday and Saturday nights, players showed up later at the Underground nightclub and at the Bon Jovi/Kid Rock concerts at Soldier Field.
Jordan Hendry and Viktor Stalberg
Sunday was a short day, but after oversleeping and missing the 9am panels, I managed to get in part of the "Training Tips from the Pros", featuring new Blackhawk arrival Viktor Stalberg, Jordan Hendry and Brian Campbell.
While they talked about what it takes to stay in shape for the season from a dietary and fitness standpoint, they also discussed injuries, and Brian Campbell admitted he probably came back a little earlier from his boarding injury than he should have, but that he worked hard to heal up and be ready.
Remember this goal? -- Marian Hossa scoring against the Tampa Bay Lightning on 12/13/09 - it made the Top 10 Goals of the 2009-10 season, when he caught the puck from midair and batted it into the goal:
The stick he used for that goal was on the auction block at the Convention. The winning price? Just $800.
In all, a long, busy weekend. Lots of new stories and shared adventures. From what I heard from talking to other fans, the organization was better this year, but there were still lots of long lines, and it felt like a lot of the weekend was spent in those lines. The Convention continues to improve, though, and through feedback collected during the Fan's Voice session, I'm sure it'll run even smoother next year.