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Hawks' plane party with Stanley adds to the memories

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CHICAGO -- Jonathan Toews looked at his new best friend, the Stanley Cup, and sighed.

It was just a few minutes after 4 a.m. CT on Thursday, and Toews had just concluded a brief interlude with reporters in the lobby of the private charter service the team uses at O'Hare International Airport. Toews had just carried the Cup off the plane's ramp a few minutes earlier, after airport fire crews showered the plane in salute with full blasts from the water cannons on their trucks.

Toews was the first Hawks player off the plane and excitedly walked the Cup over to a group of cheering firemen before taking the trophy to meet with reporters. It rested on the floor in between a gaggle of media while Toews spoke, and when he finished he looked down at the Cup and shook his head in mock anguish.

"Man, I'm getting tired of lugging this thing around," Toews said, drawing laughs. "I'm just ... kidding."

Toews then hoisted it overhead once more for a photo-op -- kissing it again for good measure. He and the rest of the team probably could have used a comfy hotel bed by that point, but the party continued despite a rowdy flight home from Philadelphia.

"It was crazy," Toews said. "It was pretty loud in there. I'm sure the pilots are glad to see us get out of there."

In what shape did they leave the plane?

"It's probably not pretty," Toews said, smiling. "You guys probably don't want to go on there."

Ah, to be a 22-year old Conn Smythe-winning captain and champion. Toews, though, was one of the tamer Hawks upon arrival in Chicago. Aside from a few of his teammates, who didn't speak to reporters, the rest of the team was hustled off to idling tour buses that took them to the next stop on their celebration tour.

Meanwhile, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville spoke about how much fun the party had been already.

"The plane was, uh … that was better than the game," the usually straight-laced coach said, laughing. "That was a lot of fun. You can tell they're a young group of guys. They really accomplished a lot and they're enjoying the moment."

Quenneville clearly is, too.

"We'll always walk together the rest of our lives and remember this day," he said. "It's a special achievement. The resurgence of the last few years was quick, but it's … probably going to be a great summer."

He was then asked about what it's like to be back in Chicago toting the Cup, where car horns honked all over the city and surrounding areas long into the night.

"Yeah," Quenneville said. "These guys want to go hear the beepin'."

With that, it was on to the next stop -- which turned out to be a breakfast at Harry Caray's Restaurant in nearby Rosemont. A fairly large group of fans found out the location and camped outside, and their efforts paid off when several Hawks -- including Toews and Kane -- came out, signed autographs and let people touch the Cup.

Toews was asked at the airport where the Cup would spend the night and who'd get the first personal spin with it.

"I don't know," he said. "We're going to spend the night as a team and pull each other around, and it's going to wind up wherever we do."

One place it's sure to be found is Friday morning at 10:30 a.m. CT at the corner of Wacker Dr. and Washington St. for a parade. The parade route will head east on Washington St. to Michigan Ave. before heading north on Michigan to Wacker Dr., a.k.a. The Magnificent Mile.

To many Hawks fans, just seeing their team hoist the coveted Cup seems like a bit of a miracle considering the depths from which this team has risen. Some of the Hawks know the feeling, because they lived it. Not too many years ago, Hawks players passed out free tickets on the same streets they'll be parading down as champions.

"We're just glad to be back home in Chicago," Toews said. "We're ready to show this (Cup) off to our fans here."


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