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Fox Valley Blackhawks fans happy to be among the multitudes at Friday’s downtown championship rally and parade

Blackhawks fans pose Friday Big Timber statiElgin. | Mike Danahey -Sun-Times Media

Blackhawks fans pose Friday at the Big Timber station in Elgin. | Mike Danahey -Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 12, 2013 11:12PM



CHICAGO -Joe and Jamie Griffin of Bartlett got on the packed train to Chicago’s Union Station early Friday morning with a purpose shared by about 2 million other people.

“I missed the parade when (the Chicago Blackhawks) won the Stanley Cup in 2010, and I wasn’t going to miss it this time,” lifelong Hawks fan Joe Griffin said.

Living not far from one of the first few stops on Metra’s Milwaukee District West line meant the couple were among the lucky fans to get seats for the ride into the rally.

Things were sardine packed very early and often as the commuter lines struggled to keep up with the overwhelming demand. That’s not to mentioned infrequent riders trying to figure out how to pay for parking.

Elgin City Councilman Richard Dunne - who boards at Big Timber at for his job in the Loop at FEMA - said his 5:27 a.m. train was standing room only by the Bartlett stop. And the parking lot at the Big Timber Station was pretty much filled by the time the 7:24 a.m. train left the station.

Once downtown and off the latter, the Griffins blended into the throng as they headed out to meet friends along the route. Inside Union Station, Hawks memorabilia was being hawked bazaar-style and the lines for the bathrooms stretched far into the hallway by the ticket counters.

In fact, finding a bathroom to use was a task onto itself on such a delirious day. The La Quinta Hotel on Franklin Street was kind enough to let revelers use its lobby facilities. There, the men’s bathroom was occupied way too long by an odd quartet of young men, one carrying a can of beer in a koozie and a funnel on his back, three others fixing their hair in the mirror and rolling funny cigarettes.

Possibly more annoying were walking vendors selling air horns and those plastic vuvuzela ones that irritate soccer fans the world over. Or hearing “Chelsea Dagger” repeatedly stab through the air.

A fine a spot as any to watch the proceedings was Daley Plaza, where WBBM TV had set up a jumbo monitor east across Dearborn just off the intersection with Washington, and where there was shade, seating, and space to call your very own.

Kids played on the Picasso sculpture while they waited for their hockey heroes to drive by on double decker buses. The crowd there included a hipster type with his beard dyed black and red, a couple wearing inauthentic Indian headdresses, at least one tinfoil faux Stanley Cup, lots of beer bellies, some short skirts, and regular looking suburbanites such as John Spankroy of Lake in the Hills, Gary McQueen of Huntley, and jersey-wearing Cindy Ward of Schaumburg.

Ward works downtown, and her boss gave her the day off to enjoy the festivities. As she stood on the edge of a planter, she said, “It’s perfect here. It’s a great spot to be taking pictures. This is awesome.”

Spankroy said he and McQueen had attended the 2010 parade and felt the route this time was a better one.

“When it was on State Street it was way too crowded,” Spankroy said.

Of their train rides, the two men got on the Union Pacific West Line at its Pingree Grove depot, so had seats, while Ward said, “I sat on the stairs (on a Milwaukee West train).”

Once the caravan made their way to Daley Plaza, it passed in a hurry, the buses carrying the players and staff moving at a brisk pace not usually associated with a parade.

After the brief glimpse, a good many faithful Hawks followers tried to make their way to the victory rally at Hutchinson Field in the south end of Grant Park - a field that was used by President Barack Obama for his 2008 victory rally and is used by the annual Lollapalooza music festival.

But with the Hawk-crazy crowd estimated at 2 million people - as it was in 2010 - and the Chicago metro region’s population at 9.7 million, that meant about one in every five area residents made it to the parade and/or rally.

The mere physics behind such masses would make the walk difficult. Barricades put up by the city made it practically impossible, a rat maze for confused hockey-sapiens.

Meandering east toward One Prudential Plaza on Randolph Street led to a tightly packed, sweaty impasse. Heading north up to Lake Street to eventually head back south meant running into a fenced-in construction site near Millennium Park.

Like something out of a prison break movie, fanatical fans wouldn’t let a chain link fence there stop them. Some hopped it, and somehow someone got a part of the fence to lift so that more Hawks devotees could sneak under it - at least until a cop and four guys in hard hats showed up to stop the potentially dangerous nonsense.

Heading north out of the fray meant getting lost in a high-end, high-rise neighborhood, making a call to Dunne, then heading west along the south bank of the Chicago River - the part Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to turn into San Antonio North - toward stairs leading to North Michigan Avenue.

Boats passed by, concession stands sold tacos and smoothies to hungry and thirsty people in black and red clothing, and a few curious Hawks fans stopped to talk to a man painting his impressions on a canvas on an easel by the water.

Once back on Michigan, a jovial cab driver laughed at the comically dressed among the fandom as he tried to make his way to the Italian Village Restaurant on South Monroe.

There, over a much-needed lunch (for this reporter, at least), Dunne said that his daughter, Carolyn, who lives in the heart of the city, made it to the front row of the rally. But when the crowd compressed and started pushing, she and her friends left.

“So they went to the beach,” Dunne said.

Back on the street, the walk back to Union Station included a quick peek inside the architecturally sexy Rookery on South LaSalle Street to try find another bathroom, then a stop into the W Hotel on West Adams Street, where the women’s restroom door in the basement had been left ajar - and offered a place of appreciated solitude from the hectic Hawks-crazed people outside.

Back at Union Station, while Chicago claims to be the city that works, on this day the train lines strained very hard to hold true to that sentiment.

A 1:20 p.m. train added to the schedule that would be heading to Elgin was packed as even more people lined the walkway waiting for the next outbound one to arrive. When it did, there was further waiting in the tunnel as a conductor worked to change the direction the seats were facing before letting anyone board.

Despite this, the crowd heading home was a pretty well-behaved, if tired, bunch. To that point, Jamie Legner Mueller of Elburn said she might need a nap before heading to Rosie O’Hare’s Public House in East Dundee where she is one of the owners.

Legner took time off from her day job in Naperville and what has been a busy time at the pub with the Hawks push to the NHL championship to see the celebration.

“I needed a day like this. It was a lot of fun,” Legner Mueller said.



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