Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane hoists the Stanley Cup aloft during the 2010 victory parade.
What’s the thickest, most non-breathable thing you can possibly don on a sweltering, humid day? That’s right, a long-sleeved hockey jersey. But that didn’t stop what city officials are estimating to be 2 million Hawks fans from slipping on their Toews, Kane, Byfuglien and Hossa jerseys (plus some old-schoolers like Chelios and “It’s getting dusty in here” Roenick) and hitting the parade this morning. “It’s like breathing butter out here,” muttered one guy in a sweat-soaked Blackhawks tee. Under the merciful shade of trees along the east side of Michigan near Washington where I started waiting for the parade at 10am, I strained under the weight of both the intense humidity and a palpable cloud of testosterone. There were twentysomething dudes everywhere, many still sporting Toews/Abe Lincoln hockey beards, many undaunted by the heat and yelling “Go Hawks!” while dramatically waving a Blackhawks flag. “C’mon, let’s hear ya!” Jordan Casey shouted as he hoisted an inflatable Stanley Cup over his head, which he told me he bought at Dick’s Sporting Goods after the second period of the final game, then brought it back to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the rest of the game. “I blew it up in less than a minute. Everyone and their mother has kissed this thing already. You want to kiss it?” No thanks, dude. My favorite shirt? A white tee with a big 31 scrawled in black magic marker on the front and on the back, a serial-killer’s script that I could barely make out as Niemi. Kasey Jednachowski, there with his brother Kevin, says he couldn’t afford to buy the goalie’s jersey so he had to make his own. “Niemi had the sexiest playoff beard,” Kasey said. Where’s your beard, then? “I’m 18 and I still can’t grow facial hair!” he lamented while his brother cracked up. Other fashions of interest: a dude in a button-down denim shirt with the sleeves torn off wearing a red hockey helmet (probably for his own protection), and a couple in matching tie-dyed Grateful Dead shirts looking incredibly stoned and incredibly confused. Wrong party, guys. As the sound of bagpipes carried through the dank air, the crowd started getting excited, craning for a view of the procession. Then we could finally see it: horse-riding policemen carrying the Illinois, Chicago, American, and for some reason Canadian and Irish flags, followed by the bagpipers, followed by at least six trolleys carrying the Hawks’ friends and family. “Who the fuck are these people?” one shaved-head guy shouted. The old-fashioned Budweiser wagon, drawn by Clydesdales and carrying a Dalmation, earned some hoots. Finally the double-decker buses made the turn from Washington to Michigan, the first couple with past Blackhawks greats like Denis Savard waving to the crowd from the open-air top deck. The crowd went nuts when they spotted Antti Niemi chilling out on the back of one bus, followed by another bus with Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky and Dustin Byfuglien with what looked like the WWE championship belt tossed over his shoulder. But the crowd saved the biggest cheers for the last bus carrying Hawks front-office types like Hawks prez John McDonough up front, and at the back, Toews and Kane flanking the Stanley Cup. And that’s when the stampede started. Realizing the parade was over, the crowd pushed to follow the buses up Michigan toward the rally site at Michigan and Wacker. Having no choice but to be carried along with them, I did my best to avoid horse shit (seriously, so much horse shit), water bottles and Starbucks cups littering the street as the sweaty, stinky, very excited masses moved slowly up the street to the tunes of “Fresh” by Kool and the Gang blaring on the loudspeakers. “It smells like goddamn zoo!” As I turned to agree with the guy who shouted that, my eyes fell on the person trudging alongside me, who was wearing a full leather gimp mask, with the mouth unzipped. And a Hawks hat. Wow. Once we reached Michigan and South Water, the crowd stopped: Michigan was at capacity, and this was a close as we were going to get to the stage. If I stood on my toes and craned my neck, I could see the video screen, but couldn’t hear much. I watched as Eddie Olczyk announced everyone who’s ever worked for the Hawks in any capacity. Around the time he started naming the team doctors, the testosterone stank got thicker: The crowd was getting restless. Suddenly I was getting pushed forward and people started screaming in protest. Too old for this crap, I pushed to the back, closer to the speakers so at least I could hear something. Around that time Daley got on stage, and the crowd booed. Then Olczyk announced the players: Cristobal Huet got boos, Marian Hossa got wild cheers and “Hossa!” chants, Niemi got horns, crazy applause, screaming. When Patrick Sharp took the stage, he said the Hawks have a lot of talented players: a goalie who can stand on his head, and one who can sing. And with that Versteeg lurched to the mike and performed the worst, most nonsensical freestyle rap I’ve ever heard. Something about jerseys and the Stanley Cup. Just awful. More Hawks players took to the mike: Duncan Keith, he of seven teeth lost in one game, lisped that he’s “having the best time of my life. Anyone know a good dentist?” Hey-oh! Patrick Kane promised to keep his shirt on all summer. “And to all the cab drivers out there, I love you!” Sigh, Kaner, how ‘bout learning some class from your friend Jonathan Toews? Obviously moved, at first Toews could only say, “Unbelievable.” As the crowd cheered, he said, “I didn’t know there was this many people in Chicago! You guys are the best fans in the world…You made this special for us.” And with that, “Chelsea Dagger” blared, fireworks shot, confetti rained down and a guy so glistening with sweat that his shirtless torso was completely covered in white ticker tape shoved past me on his way out of the melee. Good idea, sweaty shirtless guy.