The Chicago Blackhawks would’ve spent Friday night preparing for their game against the San Jose Sharks the next evening. Instead, some of them, past and present, took to the ice with fellow NHL players for charity.
The “Champs for Charity” game, organized in only two weeks by former Blackhawk Adam Burish and his agent, Bill Zito, gave fans the hockey they’d been craving since games had been canceled due to the lockout, and it gave the players the chance to not only help out the community but do what they love.
By all accounts, the game was a rousing success on and off the ice. The game raised $323,500 for the future Ronald McDonald House at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. That exceeded Burish’s hopes of raising $250,000.
Beyond the great cause it helped, the game provided a much needed outlet for both the 11,649 fans in attendance and the players. Both teams – Team Chicago and Team World – played great hockey while being silly and having a good time. Whether it was Burish nearly stripping after his goal or Jonathan Toews using a curling move to “knock down” his teammates or Daniel Carcillo “fighting” guest coach Ryan Dempster, there were smiles and laughs on both teams.
“Guys were laughing on the bench, ‘This is so crazy. This is so cool.’” said Burish. “That was pretty special for the guys.”
Among those participating in the game were Patrick Sharp, Brian Campbell, Troy Brouwer, Jordan Staal, Bobby Ryan, Shawn Thornton, James Wisniewski, Andrew Ladd, Ryan Suter, Jamal Mayers, Sheldon Brookbank and Craig Adams.
There was also a rare sight at the game. In lieu of PIM, penalties were marked with a penalty shot from the opposing team. In one case, a call on Burish for goalie interference led to Team World goalie Niklas Backstrom scoring a penalty shot on Team Chicago goalie Craig Anderson.
In the end, Team World won 15-14 after Carcillo scored a shootout goal on Anderson, resulting in a joking tackle from Toews.
The night was bittersweet for Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane. Although he scored five goals and won the game’s MVP trophy, it will be the last time he takes to the ice in Chicago for a while. After a nine-hour flight, he’ll be in Switzerland to play with EHC Biel. “It’s kind of really hitting me now that it’s my last night here in Chicago and then I’ll be home,” Kane said before correcting himself. “Back to Switzerland. I guess you can call it home [for] now.”
In the end, Burish summed up the experience: “Tonight was a nice escape. For a night, it felt like we were back in the NHL again.”