CHICAGO (Reuters) - Two million fans turned out to celebrate the Chicago Blackhawks’ National Hockey League championship with a ticker-tape parade on Friday, roaring their approval of the team’s first Stanley Cup in half a century.
Youthful goal scorers Patrick Kane and team captain Jonathan Toews took turns hoisting the silver Stanley Cup from atop a fleet of open-air buses that coursed through the teeming streets of the city’s famous Loop to a stage erected alongside the Chicago River.
“The Cup’s here and we’d love it to stay here a little longer,” coach Joe Quenneville told the crowd, referring to the team’s young core.
The NHL title was the fourth overall for the Blackhawks, one of the league’s six longest-running franchises, but their first since 1961 and the winning days of “The Golden Jet” Bobby Hull and fellow Hall of Famer Stan Mikita.
Hull, who had been estranged from the team for years, beamed and shook hands as his name was announced.
“It’s been a long season,” forward Patrick Sharp said, with many of his teammates clad in shorts and sandals.
“We’ve got a goalie (Antti Niemi) who can stand on his head. We’ve got a lot of guys good at scoring goals. One guy is good at singing songs,” he said, introducing Kris Versteeg who shouted a rapid-fire rap hailing the team’s success.
Forecast rain storms held off, but some in the crowd succumbed on a hot and humid day.
“I’ve seen a woman faint, a small boy vomit, and an old man have to be escorted away,” a television reporter said.
On Thursday, some players escorted the Cup to local bars accompanied by fans thrilled to touch, let alone drink from, the famous silver chalice.
The Stanley Cup, one of the oldest sports trophies, was first awarded to Canada’s top amateur hockey team in 1892 and has been awarded to the NHL champion since 1926.
Duncan Keith, a favorite for the Norris Trophy that is awarded the league’s top defenseman, offered his own low-key view and reminded fans of his sacrifice -- seven lost teeth when a puck struck him in the mouth.
“What a day, eh? What a ride. Thanks for coming out guys. This is the best time of my life right now. Stanley Cup. Who knows a good dentist, by the way?”
Editing by Philip Barbara
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