|ESPN.com: NHL Playoffs 2010||[Print without images]|
CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews stepped off the team's chartered airplane just before 4 a.m. CT Thursday, holding the Stanley Cup high above his head.
He had officially delivered hockey's prized possession back to Chicago.
Toews and his teammates landed at O'Hare International Airport after returning from Philadelphia, where just hours earlier they had defeated the Flyers 4-3 in overtime to give the organization its first Stanley Cup in 49 years.
The 22-year-old was still trying to soak everything in. He knew that the flight home was just the beginning of what figures to be a crazy celebration the next few days and weeks for his team.
A ticker tape parade will kick things off Friday morning at Wacker and Washington. The parade will proceed east on Washington to Michigan, and then to Wacker. There will be a rally at 11:30 a.m. CT at the intersection of Michigan and Wacker.
The parade and celebration will be carried live on ESPN3.com and ESPNChicago.com.
"It was a crazy flight," Toews said. "No one was sitting down. No one was relaxing. It was just our way of getting the party started. We're happy to be here, back at our home in Chicago, and we're ready to show this off to our fans here."
Coach Joel Quenneville agreed.
"The plane [ride]," he said with a laugh, "That was better than the game. That was a lot of fun. Everybody was at a different level than they've been at in a long time. The guys, you can tell they're a young group of guys, they accomplished a lot, and they're really enjoying the moment, and it's fun watching these guys take it to the next level."
The Blackhawks looked and smelled like a team that truly was enjoying every moment.
Forward Dustin Byfuglien whipped through the airport lobby wearing a pair of neon orange sunglasses. Forward Kris Versteeg carried around Toews' Conn Smythe Trophy, which some of the players have affectionately dubbed "Connie."Defenseman Brian Campbell gladly took care of the Cup for a few moments while Toews caught his breath. Even the team's pilot got in on the act, opening the window at the front of the aircraft and unfurling a red Blackhawks flag.
Quenneville sounded like a proud father while describing the initial minutes after his team's plane hit the ground.
"It was a great moment," he said of the landing, which included two spigots pumping water through the air. "The guys all went first and that was great. It's a young group of guys, they should cherish it. We'll always walk together the rest of our lives and remember this day and this moment. It's a special achievement. At the same time, we should enjoy this time for the next little while here. I think the resurgence [of the franchise] over the last couple years was quick, but it's probably going to be a great summer."
As for where the Cup goes right now, it's anyone's guess. You can bet that Toews & Co. will keep a close eye on it, though.
"We're going to spend the night together as a team and follow each other around," the captain said. "So it's going to wind up wherever we do, so we'll see."
It's a good bet that the Blackhawks will probably end up going down toward Rush Street at some point. When a reporter mentioned to Quenneville that people on Chicago's famous main drag are still beeping their horns in celebration of the team's victory, the veteran coach smiled.
"These guys want to go hear the beeping," he said.