Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith asked for the name of a good dentist. Patrick Kane insisted he loved cabbies. And team captain Jonathan Toews hoisted the Stanley Cup to roars from a huge and appreciative crowd.
An estimated 2 million fans turned out in Chicago yesterday to cheer for the Blackhawks, holding a boisterous parade and rally to honor the NHL champions. The Hawks, 4-2 winners over the Flyers in the finals, some clad in sandals and shorts, many with their caps turned backward, delighted their supporters with seemingly unrehearsed boyish charm.
"Who knows a good dentist, by the way?" asked Keith to laughs and cheers. He lost seven teeth after being hit in the mouth by a puck during a sweep of San Jose in the Western Conference final, but he was all gap-toothed smiles yesterday.
Kane's comment was a wink at his arrest following an altercation with a Buffalo, N.Y., cab driver last summer. He exhorted the crowd to be louder and louder, then said: "Just for you guys, for all the cab drivers out there, I love you."
The Mayor's Office of Special Events said the crowd was bigger than that for Chicago White Sox World Series celebration in 2005. Spokeswoman Cindy Gatziolis said 1.75 million came for the baseball celebration and speculated that school being out for summer helped draw more people this time around.
Owner Rocky Wirtz, credited for turning around the moribund franchise, told supporters the Stanley Cup is home to stay.
The Blackhawks rode through the streets of Chicago in double-decker buses as fans roared and confetti spilled from the rooftops. Team legends, including Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito, joined current players on the open-topped buses. A sea of fans wearing the team's red-and-black colors streamed into the streets behind the caravan as it headed to Michigan Avenue.
Thrilled to have the silver cup back in Chicago, fans brought tin foil replicas to the parade, climbed street lights and stood atop parking garages to get a better view of the real cup.