On Saturday, September 18, I attended the Chicago Blackhawks Training Camp Festival. For five bucks, we could watch the first day of training camp. My friend Heather had an extra ticket for the 100 level section. Though I was initially lukewarm to the idea of getting up early on a Saturday morning, I let curiosity get the better of me; I’ve never seen an NHL practice before.
Surprisingly, I had a good time. I got to see some new ‘Hawks–and ‘Hawk hopefuls. Several former Blackhawks were signing autographs, and some memorabilia dealers were there too.
I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking…
Stanley Cup Appearance
At 9 AM, the Stanley Cup was brought out to center ice, placed on a table and lit with a spotlight. It sat there for 30 minutes while dramatic music played loudly in the arena. Very cheesy, if you ask me. At the time, I was checking out what the dealers were selling.
Practices & Scrimages
Blackhawks Coach Joel Quennevillewas hooked up with a microphone, so we could hear him barking orders at the players during drills. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hear what he said when he’d “huddle up” with the players.
Click on the photo for a better look at Quenneville instructing Alec Richards (38), John Scott (32), Rob Flick (37), Nick Leddy (37), Ryan Potulny (16), Bryan Bickell (29) and others.
Coach Q instructs the players. With so many new faces–and no numbers on their sleeves–I had a hard tim telling who was who. But the look on the redshirt’s face is priceless.
Some great expressions here. I wish I knew who these guys were.
During the practice sessions, Blackhawks television commentator Ed Olczyk would explain the drill the players were doing. From time to time, Blackhawks radio commentator Troy Murray would pull a player aside for an interview.
Fans got their first look at Marty Turco as a Blackhawk.
Here’s a better look at Turco’s new mask.
Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville.
A leaner, meaner Mike Haviland, Assistant Coach for the Blackhawks. He was chubby the past few seasons (pic), but has slimmed up considerably. I didn’t even recognize him at first.
Cup-clinching goal-scorer Patrick Kane.
Game action from one of the scrimmages. Wish I could tell who was who, but the lack of sleeve numbers doesn’t help. In white is Byron Froese and Rob Flick. The player in red at the right is former Florida Panther Nick Tarnasky.
‘Hawks prospect Alec Richards. He played 4 seasons for Yale, and spent last season in the ECHL.
Richards makes a stop against Jonathan Toews (19).
Stan Mikita was at the Training Camp Fest. During one of the scrimmage game intermissions, he was riding on the Zamboni with the Stanley Cup.
Game action from the Black vs. Red scrimmage game. Jeff Taffe (red) against Brian Connely (56) and Hugh Jessman (right).
Goaltender Joe Palmer. He played in the Central League last year with the Texas Brahmas.
Yeah, I photographed a lot of goalies because they stand still much of the time. Here’s Corey Crawford, the odds-on favorite to be the ‘Hawks backup ‘tender this year.
A nice, relatively focused shot of I-don’t-know-who. Again, wish they had numbers on their sleeves.
Go White Team player, go! I like this pic, but don’t know who it is of.
Fun & Games
There was a 5-kilometer run and a 3-on-3 street hockey tournament–both of which I did not participate in.
But other fun activities were going on for those who got bored of the practices and scrimmages.
‘Hawk fans–and restless kids–had the opportunity to play both NHL ’11 and NHL Slapshot in one of the lobby areas at the United Center.
Since TV screens don’t photograph very well, I got a few pictures of the large signs promoting the game. That’s Jonathan Toews on the NHL ’11 sign…
…and Wayne Gretzky on the NHL Slapshot sign. Notice the picture of a young Wayne Gretzky (on the left).
There was an impressive array of table hockey games that people could play, from newer Stiga models to the older Coleco games from the 1970s and 1980s.
Some former Blackhawks were signing autographs. I got one card and one photo signed by each.
Peter Marsh – Readers of this website may remember that the Peter Marsh card above was once a Card of the Week. It was awesome to finally get a copy of the card signed by the man himself. He also offered to give me one of the photos the players had, which I gladly accepted.
Brian Noonan – I remember watching Noonan play for the ‘Hawks in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He won a Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers in 1994.
Cliff Koroll – A fixture on the Blackhawks for 11 seasons, Koroll is one of the nicest former players I’ve met. He is always happy and friendly, and thanks fans for coming. He asked if I wanted the card signed in blue–they had blue Sharpies at the table–but I declined because I also wanted a photo, so I didn’t want to make too many requests.
Reggie Kerr – Kerr also asked if I wanted the card signed in blue. Either he and Koroll remember me from past Blackhawks Conventions, or fans have “trained” the retired players to sign stuff in blue Sharpie. Again, I said black was fine because I also wanted the photo to be signed in black.
By the way, what a great picture! It shows Kerr getting the elbow up on Gordie Howe, while Dave Keon comes up from behind. I actually got this same picture signed by Kerr a few years ago–we had a short, funny conversation about that photo back then too.
I found a few cool odds n’ ends for my collection.
1963-64 Topps Ab McDonald – The card is in fantastic shape given its age–no creases, no stains, sharp corners. Totally worth the $10 I paid for it.
2004-05 In the Game Franchises Dirk Graham Autograph – Graham was the captain of the Blackhawks from 1988 to 1995, and won the Selke Trophy in 1991. A hard worker, Graham was one of my favorite players as a kid. I talked the dealer down to $10, which was probably still too much. But I don’t care; I like it.
Speaking of too much…
15 packs of 2010-11 Victory – I bought these from the Blackhawks Store for $2 each.
Now, you are probably wondering why I OVERPAID for packs of Victory. You can get these at most stores for $1 per pack, and I already have a complete set.
I’ll give you two reasons why I gladly paid too much for packs of cards…
Each pack of Victory that I bought at the Blackhawks Stadium Store entitled me to an exclusive card of either Patrick Kane (from this year) or Jonathan Toews (from 2008). You can only get these at the ‘Hawks team shop, and nowhere else. I selected the last 5 Toews cards, along with 10 Kane cards. I have extras to trade, if anyone is interested.
And finally, my best purchase of the day…
A black and white postcard autographed by Maurice “The Rocket” Richard – The first man to score 50 goals a season in the NHL. The Rocket passed away 10 years ago, so finding his autograph has gotten harder. Because authenticity is always an issue, I rarely buy autographed items. However, I got this from a reputable dealer that I have bought from in the past. For $25, this is a welcome addition to my collection.
Overall, I had a blast. Watching the practices were just OK, but the scrimmages themselves were a lot of fun. And when I got bored of that, I was able to walk around, check out what the dealers had for sale or get some autographs. If the Blackhawks do this again next year, I’ll probably go.