CHICAGO - With Blackhawk players acting as tour guides, the beer-soaked Stanley Cup took a victory lap unlike any the city has ever seen yesterday.
Wherever hockey's Holy Grail went, adulation was sure to follow. Elated fans cheered the trophy as it made a daylong pilgrimage from O'Hare Airport to Rush Street, with stops at a suburban restaurant, a North Side bar and the United Center in between.
The team and the silver cup were so utterly accessible after arriving on an overnight flight from Philadelphia that, for a few glorious hours, Chicago seemed like the biggest small town in America.
During the summer, each player will assume custody of the 118-year-old chalice for at least 24 hours. They can take it home or wherever they like and do whatever they want with it. But before the cup jets off to far-flung places like Winnipeg, Canada, and Stara Lubovna, Slovakia, the Hawks made sure to introduce it to both Chicago's long-suffering hockey fans and its unabashed bandwagon jumpers. It is the team's first Stanley Cup title since 1961.
"We'll probably parade it around town," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews promised as the team's plane landed at O'Hare International Airport shortly before sunrise. "It'll be awesome."
And awesome it was.
The road-weary Blackhawks arrived at a private terminal at O'Hare shortly before 4 a.m., little more than 6 hours after their thrilling, 4-3 overtime victory over the Flyers in Game 6. Fire trucks welcomed the plane with cannons that shot giant arcs of water over the aircraft as it taxied to the terminal.
Toews said the plane ride was rowdy.