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Hawks give home opener red-carpet treatment
By Mike Spellman | Daily Herald Staff

Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin shakes hands with fans as Blackhawks players walk down a red carpet outside the United Center prior to Monday's home opener against Nashville.


Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

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Published: 10/13/2008 10:51 PM | Updated: 10/13/2008 10:51 PM

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Geez, imagine the kind of show management will put on next October if the Blackhawks actually make the playoffs.

Despite missing the postseason last year and starting this season with a pair of road losses, Blackhawks players and selected alumni nonetheless were treated like conquering heroes returning from battle Monday outside the United Center just hours before taking the ice for their first home game of 2008-09.

There were limos, spotlights, a red carpet, music, a plethora of TV cameras and about 500 fans lining the ropes, most sporting either home or away jerseys.

"We want to make sure we reward everybody who comes to the United Center or watches the game on free TV," team president John McDonough said before revving up the masses by bringing on the players with: "Buckle up, here come the Blackhawks."

On cue, Hawks players were dropped off by limo on Madison Street, introduced to the crowd by emcee Eddie Olczyk, and then made their way down a wide red carpet, some walking shyly right down the middle to polite applause, others getting into the moment by shaking hands and high-fiving fans.

Regardless of whether you thought it was a bit over the top or just the right touch, you certainly couldn't argue that Monday's soiree wasn't indeed a spectacle.

Just the type of thing the organization needs to keep doing, according to former Hawks great Stan Mikita.

"As I was walking down that carpet shaking hands, I kept thinking, we were always entertainers," Mikita said of the players from his era. "These kids today have to realize that, too. You've got to entertain the people so they get their money's worth.

"We've had a lot of talented players here in the past, but they were kind of to themselves. Now, you've got a lot of people that you want to do this in front of. They're yelling and screaming, they're dying every time we lose. They're excited every time we win.

"To me, that's what the game is."