Blackhawks bask in latest Stanley Cup victory
General manager Stan Bowman recalled the Chicago Blackhawks' championship rally and parade falling on his birthday two years ago.
The Stanley Cup celebration comes a little earlier this year. The scene figures to be just as wild.
''This is why we get together back in September,'' Bowman said Wednesday. ''We always point toward the moment when you get to win the Cup and have that moment to celebrate it with your friends, family and the entire city. Definitely excited for (Thursday). Those are days you never forget. The last time we had the parade, it was on my birthday.''
The Blackhawks clinched their third Stanley Cup in six seasons with their win over Tampa Bay in Game 6 at the United Center on Monday night, setting off a wild celebration.
On Thursday comes a parade through downtown and a rally at Soldier Field. After that, there will be some roster issues to address - including the future of forward Patrick Sharp.
One of seven Blackhawks to play on these three championship teams, he could be on his way out because of salary cap issues.
''I'm hopeful, but I haven't really thought about it to be honest with you,'' he said. ''I've kind of put that stuff behind me and focused on the playoffs. The last couple days, it's just been a whirlwind.''
The deal that brought Sharp from Philadelphia in 2005 was one of the catalysts that lifted Chicago out of a dark era, along with the drafting of Jonathan Toews in 2006 and Patrick Kane in 2007.
But Sharp turns 34 in December. He dropped to 16 goals and 27 assists after leading Chicago with 34 goals and 78 points the previous season. With the cap expected to be around $71 million, he could be saying goodbye to Chicago.
Brandon Saad will almost certainly be sticking around.
A restricted free agent, Bowman reiterated the Blackhawks have no intention of letting him leave.
''He's gonna be a big part of our group for many years to come,'' he said. ''We'll make it work.''
Bowman also said he would ''love'' to bring back Andrew Desjardins and the same ''absolutely'' goes for Marcus Kruger, who have expiring contracts.
Bowman was also asked about the possibility of reworking coach Joel Quenneville's contract. He has two seasons left on the three-year extension he signed in July 2013.
''I can say Joel's not going anywhere,'' Bowman said.
The Stanley Cup has been getting plenty of mileage, though.
The trophy has been all over the city, at restaurants and nightclubs. The team brought it to Wrigley Field, where Cubs manager Joe Maddon hoisted it above his head and Toews threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama called Quenneville, Toews and chairman Rocky Wirtz to congratulate the Blackhawks and added that he looks forward to hosting the team again at the White House.
Another big celebration comes Thursday, with the rally and parade.
''I've felt better, for sure,'' Kane said, laughing. ''It's all part of what comes with winning the Stanley Cup, right? It's been a fun couple days, not much sleep, but a lot of good moments and memories.''
The past few days. The past few years.
This championship capped what had been a difficult season, filled with highs and lows. The suicide of longtime equipment manager Clint Reif and death of former teammate Steve Montador hit the team hard.
Kane looked as if he might be on his way to the Hart Trophy as the league MVP before he broke his collarbone in February, an injury that raised questions about the Blackhawks' playoff hopes. He was expected to miss up to 12 weeks, but returned in time for the playoffs.
In the end, Chicago stood tall and hoisted the Cup. The championship was the sixth for the franchise and the first time the Blackhawks clinched at home since 1938.
''I feel privileged and honored and thrilled that I walked in at the right time and things worked out the way they did,'' Quenneville said. ''It's a special team to work with. We have a great bunch of guys.''