The tenth annual Blackhawks Convention took place this past weekend at Hilton Chicago. Many players, past and present, were on various panels where they shared their thoughts on hockey and each other. There seemed to be a theme throughout the day: their love for Chicago and the Blackhawks.
Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad were on the Sweet Home Chicago panel, where they spoke about how they felt returning to the city. Patrick Sharp reiterated the notion that he never gave up hope in Dallas that he’d be a Blackhawk again. “It was tough to leave. I don’t think I ever fully got over being traded and playing for a new team. Dallas Stars were awesome to me; they were great. Met a lot of good friends there.”
As for his thoughts on who has the best flow on the team: “I’d be happy to pass the title on to somebody. I think I saw a magazine or a newspaper cover of Ryan Hartman last year flexing his muscles and trying to look all sexy with his eyes and everything. He can have that title if he wants it.”
Sharp was a Blackhawk from 2005-2015, and was around when the team didn’t have such a large fan base. “It’s crazy to see how far the organization has come in a short period of time and I think that’s a credit to the fans,” Sharp said. “I think my first game had less fans then we have in this room right now. I remember the first promotion we did off the ice. Duncan Keith and I wore our red jerseys in a train station downtown and we were handing out free tickets to games and people couldn’t get away from us faster.”
Brandon Saad had much of the same to say about his return. He didn’t hear any rumors or hints of the trade prior to the call he got informing him of it. It came as a shock to him, but one that he was happy with. When asked what he missed the most about Chicago during his two years in Columbus, he said, “You can go down the list: there’s great food, great people, lots to do, and a great city to be around. Obviously we’re hockey players and that’s what you remember the most, especially winning championships and the relationships you form with teammates.”
Tommy Wingels is also returning to Chicago this season, not as a returning player, but a returning resident. Chicago native Tommy Wingels signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks a few weeks ago. He was on the Growing the Game panel, along with Vinnie Hinostroza, Ryan Hartman, and Jamal Mayers, where they talked about hockey in Illinois.
Wingels played for the San Jose Sharks and his first NHL goal was against the Blackhawks at the United Center. “I don’t remember much. I think I blacked out. It was a really fun moment to do that in front of your friends and family in the building that you idolize yourself growing up and playing in one day. Certainly a memory of a lifetime.”
He was asked how it feels to play for the team he grew up a fan of: “Pretty awesome, I’ll tell you that. Everyday I kind of pinch myself that this is actually happening and this is real. I haven’t had a chance to put the jersey on but I think once I do that it’s gonna feel like it’s really here.”
Chicago’s fan base is constantly growing and has been doing so since 2007. This is, of course, due to the team’s success over the years. But can also be attributed to the various events the Blackhawks host, such as the Convention, where fans get to know players on a more personal level and see the men behind the logo they root for.