ROSEMONT Patrick Kane seemingly scored a goal every time the puck touched his stick. The crowd was involved from the start, their traditional cheering of the national anthem resonating through Allstate Arena. Members of that 2009-10 Stanley Cup team were playing off each other just like old times.
And for about three hours on Friday night, participating players and about 12,000 fans focused completely on hockey. And forgot about the lockout.
For those keeping score at home, Team World beat Team Chicago in a 16-15 shootout. But in this Champs for Charity game, organized by former Blackhawks forward Adam Burish and Bill Zito, everybody won. The players got to play a game. Fans got to watch their favorite NHL players for the first time since last spring.
The charity trumped all; the game raised 323,500, which will benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. And that, players said, was what mattered most.
Were going through a tough time (with the lockout), but like Burish said, its pretty miniscule compared to what some people are going through, Troy Brouwer said. Thats what we were trying to raise money for tonight. To get all the old guys back was fun. To do it for a good cause was even better.
The atmosphere was tremendous, and even better than some players anticipated.
I had no idea (it would be like that), said Jonathan Toews of the crowd, which was in midseason United Center form. It just goes to show you we have some great hockey fans here in Chicago. It doesnt matter if its us guys or the guys who came into town. The people in the building were excited to watch hockey.
Burish who got this game organized in a matter of weeks, was pleased with the outcome.
The biggest thing for me was all these guys deciding to participate. Guys I won a championship with showed up, guys Ive played against showed up. To me, thats what meant a lot, Burish said. They were so giving with their time, doing whatever they could to help, because it wasnt easy. I hope everyone had fun, because I did.
And just playing hockey again felt great.
Thats what we were saying on the bench. We havent been tired like this in a while. This felt good to be tired again, to work again, to get a good sweat again. And having people cheering and screaming was fun again. It felt like we were back in the NHL again.
Patrick Sharp said it had all the feeling of a regular game. Albeit one with a very light feel that included a few fun moments such as goaltender Niklas Backstrom scoring on a penalty shot and coach Ryan Dempster and Daniel Carcillo engaging in a faux fight.
It brings you right back to the regular season and playoffs. And its all for a great cause, he said. Whenever you score a goal you get a good feeling. You play to win and be a part of a team. We were messing around out there but we were still playing hockey. There were a lot of antics going on but it was fun to be a part of a game again.
Unfortunately, its the only game these guys will be a part of here for a while. The NHL lockout drags on, now with games through Nov. 30 gone. But for at least one night, everyone could forget about that and remember what its like to watch some NHL-like hockey.
Tonight was a nice escape, Burish said. It felt like we were playing a real game with NHL players, fans and officials. For a night, it felt like we were back in the NHL again.