Oh my Gosh!
This sounds like a Puck’n awesome day! Melissa headed out to the Chicago Blackhawks Convention in Chicago, and here’s a little known fact… My dad played in the Blackhawks minor league team.
In fact, here’s a little picture of my in his old jersey…
So, you can probably guess, the Blackhawks are near and dear to my heart.
Check out Melissa’s recap below!
Everyone always says the third time is the charm, but after attending my fourth Blackhawks Convention I strongly believe in the number four. Never ever did I dream that everything would work out the way it did. Usually it’s only my dad and I making the trek down to the Hilton, but this year my friends, Brandy and Katie, decided to join in on the fun!
A little background on the convention…the Blackhawks are the only team in the NHL to put on an event like this. The convention is divided into six parts: general autographs, photo ops, VIP autographs, (Since it would be chaos to have Jonathan Toews or other top line players signing in the general autograph area…VIP autographs are limited to special tickets that are obtained either by staying in the hotel for two nights or Scratch & Win ticket winners) Q&A panels, a vendor room, and an interactive play area. During the day four general autograph sessions are going on at once (they rotate players about every two hours) and two photo sessions (same thing…rotating basis). On Friday and Sunday there are two VIP autograph sessions (both at the same time). Saturday is the only full day so there are thirteen VIP autograph sessions going on throughout the day (about two or three at a time). General autographs and photo ops use a bracelet system. 315 bracelets are handed out per autograph session and 150 bracelets per photo op session. Bracelets are usually given out about an hour or two before the session so you have to plan your schedule according to when you have to be in what line. VIP autograph tickets are a little more complicated. The ticket doesn’t tell you who the autograph is for…it just tells you when to be where so half the fun of the weekend is trying to guess who the ticket is for. You can eliminate some players because they might be in a panel at the time of the signing and usually every player only does one signing so if Patrick Kane signs on Friday night you can take him out of the running.
Arrival time on Friday night was around 3:00pm. My dad checked us into the hotel while Brandy and I checked us into the convention (Katie was at work and meeting us later). Down in registration I picked up our passes, programs (the Bible of the weekend as it contains the schedule of events), backpacks, four Scratch & Win tickets (one per pass) and two VIP autograph tickets (because we were staying in two rooms for two nights). They opened the door to the general autograph area at 3:00pm so we quickly hopped in line and were let into the ‘pit’. A lot of people were upstairs waiting for the Opening Ceremonies to start so the lines weren’t too long. We both wanted backup goaltender Antti Raanta so we quickly joined his line. While waiting in line Brandy and I scratched off our tickets and one of them was a winner! At 5:00pm they passed out the bracelets and we were free to leave the line until the session started at 7:30pm (once you have a bracelet you are guaranteed an autograph or photo. You’re only allowed to have one bracelet on at time). Later when we met up with my dad (he was waiting in line for a Jeremy Morin bracelet). Once Katie arrived they went ahead and scratched their tickets and were both winners. Having 5 VIP tickets is crazy lucky so we were all excited! We traded in our tickets and got 4 VIP tickets for various times on Saturday.
We grabbed a quick dinner and then got back in line for Raanta. The three of us chatted and looked over the schedule for the next day so we could budget our time. There were some panels and photo ops we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss. Finally it was 7:30pm and Raanta arrived!
What a total sweetheart. He had the biggest smile on his face. This was his first convention and you could tell he was genuinely excited to meet the fans. Brandy had him sign a picture while I had him sign a puck. The players aren’t allowed to pose for pictures (that’s kind of more of a guideline as it really depends how strict the ‘handler’ at the table is being…a lot of players took selfies) so Brandy was able to snap a quick picture of me getting the autograph. He and I exchanged hellos and nice to meet yous and a handshake. Such a nice guy.
While we were with Raanta my dad got Jeremy Morin and Jack O’Callahan (he’s really good at jumping from one line to another).
Then we headed upstairs for the Second City Improv Comedy Show. This year’s show featured: Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, Ben Smith, Brandon Saad, and Corey Crawford. The guys are such good sports and the show was very funny. Day one complete!
Normally Day two starts EARLY…like 4am early, but this year we had a VIP pass for 9:00am (which is the same time the general signings were starting that day) so the three of us slept in (my dad, on the other hand wanted Teuvo Teravainen’s autograph so he was downstairs at 5am). The doors to the general autograph area open at 8:00am and then you run in and head to the line you want because at 8:30am they start handing out the wristbands. So basically you wait in line so you can wait in another line. Brandy wanted to get a photo op with Raanta so the three of us headed down around 7:00am and got inside around 8:30am. I left Brandy and Katie in the photo line and headed up for the first VIP session of the day. Since the four of us were sharing the VIP passes we’d send one person to each session and they’d alert the others to who the pass was for and then we’d decide who got to use the ticket. They announced it was Bryan Bickell! I had never met Bickell before so I was very excited. He was very sweet and signed a puck for me. His wife is pregnant so I asked if they were getting ready for the baby. He said they were getting stuff done, but still had a lot to do. I thanked him and shook his hand and was on my way.
Brandy had her photo op bracelet and my dad was done in the Teravainen line (and already had his next bracelet secured for the second set of autographs) so we went for breakfast.
After we had eaten Brandy headed back down for her Raanta photo while Katie and I headed up to the first panel of the day. It was called the Blackhawks Baby Boom featuring: Marian Hossa, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Michal Rozsival. Brent Seabrook was supposed to be there too, but he ended up canceling. In retrospect I should have gone for the photo op because 1.) Seabrook was the only reason I wanted to go to this q&a and 2.) the panel wasn’t all that exciting. Usually panels are light and fun, but this one got really intense and heavy and people were asking questions about how Hossa planned to raise his daughters in today’s society and a lot of questions about kids using social media. Hjalmarsson tried to keep things humorous, but it really wasn’t enough.
The next session featured Conn Smyth Trophy winners: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Brad Richards. Katie’s favorite player is Kaner so we made sure to check that panel. It was a lot of fun. Kane and Toews have the best chemistry together and this year we were treated to another dance-off between the two guys.
Brandy joined us about halfway through the panel (she said Raanta was great and did all kinds of fun poses with the fans) and she and I ducked out a little early because we had a VIP session at 12:30pm.
We were hoping it was going to be Toews (as the signing was starting right after his panel was ending and all he would have had to do was cross the hallway to get to the stage). While I waited in line Brandy did a little recon and we found out who had else had signed in the 9:00am session so we knew who it wouldn’t be. Turns out our ticket was for Stan Mikita (a Blackhawks alum). I had met Stan last year so I called up my dad and he took the ticket. Brandy and I headed back to the panel room (Katie saved our seats) and we watched the Blackhawks TV Panel. (Blackhawks TV makes really cute videos with the guys that are featured online). Sadly this panel was worse than the baby one. All they did was show videos we had all already seen and then ask Kane, Andrew Shaw, Hossa, and Ben Smith if they had fun making the videos. Then half the time the wrong video played or the sound wouldn’t work. Not exactly thrilling stuff.
By that time we had about an hour before the 2:30 VIP session. We grabbed some coffee and then headed up to the VIP area. We had two tickets that were good for the 2:30pm slot so Katie went to one line and Brandy and I went to the other. We were HOPING one of the tickets was for Patrick Kane because the only thing Katie wanted out of the entire convention was to meet him and low and behold…Katie’s ticket was for Kaner himself! The other ticket was for Coach Q. I had met the Coach the previous year so I called my dad and he took the ticket. We wanted to take pictures of Katie getting her autograph, but the security was being really strict and you were only allowed to go into that area if you had a ticket. We tried to hang out on the staircase and take pictures there, but security was blocking our view. To kill time we headed to the interactive area. It’s mostly for little kids, but they have a few fun green screen and cut out photo ops so we did those before meeting back up with Katie.
Katie’s experience was AWESOME. She told Patrick she was so excited to meet him and he had made her birthday complete. He stopped signing and looked up at her and asked “Oh, is it your birthday?” and she said “On Monday” and he smiled and told her Happy Birthday. How cool is that?!? She was on cloud nine for the rest of the day. (Funny sidenote: every year I bring Katie’s birthday card to the convention in hopes I can get Kaner to sign…and this year she got a personal Happy Birthday!!)
We headed up to the last panel of the day: Raising a Pro…featuring Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, and their fathers. It was a really cute panel. The dads had some great stories to tell.
Our last VIP session was at 4:30pm and we were hoping it would be Andrew Shaw as Brandy loves her some Shawzer. Shaw hadn’t done his signing yet and again he was right across the hall at his panel so it’d be an easy trip for him. There were two sessions going on at that time and our ticket turned out to be for Brent Seabrook (my fave) and the OTHER one was Shaw. Since Brandy and Katie weren’t allowed beyond the velvet ropes they went to have a seat and wait for me to finish. Brent was as kind as always (I’ve meet him twice before). We exchanged hellos and how are yous and he signed a puck for me. I shook his hand and told him this was the best part of my weekend.
I tried to call Brandy afterward so we could meet up for dinner, but she wasn’t picking up her phone. I bumped into my dad and he told me about his Marcus Kruger experience. For the past three years he’s tried to meet Kruger and this year the stars finally aligned and he got to the chance. Unfortunately by the time he got to the front of the line Kruger’s pen was really dried up so the autograph looks terrible.
Then my phone rang and it was Brandy. She’s like “You’re not going to believe this…I’m in the Andrew Shaw line!!” Turns out someone randomly walked up to her and asked if she wanted a ticket to meet Shaw. HELL YES! I was so happy she got to meet him. Luckily because of where Shaw was signing Katie and I were allowed to stand on the side and take pictures. She tried to take a selfie, but her phone totally failed. And because Shaw is such a doll in addition to the puck she had for him he signed a birthday card for one of my co-workers. Brandy was thrilled! WHAT A DAY!
Sunday was a pretty quiet day. The only ‘big’ general signing was Johnny Oduya and I saw on Twitter that the line had already been shut down so there was no point in trying for him. We were thinking about doing the photo op with Ben Smith, but the line was so ridiculous that we took a pass. We ended up doing some shopping in the vendor room instead. Then my dad called and said the line for photos with Adam Clendening and Phillip Danault wasn’t very long (they are up and coming players) so we decided to that. They were really nice guys and the photo turned out pretty well.
To end the day we went to the interactive area and took a bunch of silly photos.
There were two VIP sessions on Sunday and since practically all the players had already signed we were curious who was left. Turns out Kane and Seabrook were signing again. Sunday can be kind of a dud since most of the players are gone, but not this year!
All I can say is…WOW. For me to meet Seabrook, Katie to meet Kaner, and Brandy to meet Raanta and Shaw…WOW. Next year all our Scratch & Win tickets will probably be losers because there is NO way we’ll ever be this lucky again. Thank you Blackhawks for continuing to be the best organization around and treating your fans to such a wonderful weekend!
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