CHICAGO — Double-decker buses full of Blackhawks received a heroes' welcome as they passed an estimated 2 million fans who lined up for a parade and massive rally to celebrate the Stanley Cup championship.
A clean-shaven Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews clutched the Cup as he passed tens of thousands of adoring fans along the parade route and then into Grant Park.
Streams of fans — dressed in bright red Hawks' jerseys, homemade congratulatory T-shirts and other Hawks gear — had come from all directions, flooding the Loop and the south end of Grant Park. Fans lined up in the wee hours Friday morning, excited to party in celebration of the Hawks winning the 2013 Stanley Cup.
"I came out today to celebrate the best hockey team in the world," said Aaron McClellan, 29, of Andersonville, who was given the day off from his job as a sales associate.
The city said more than two million fans attended the parade and then filled Grant Park's Hutchinson Field for the late morning rally. It was largely peaceful, although police said they arrested a man acting suspicously who was later found to have two handguns not far from City Hall on the 100 block of N. LaSalle St. Five others were arrested for misdemeanors, police said.
The rally was kicked off by a resounding singing of the national anthem by Jim Cornelison. The field is the same one used by President Barack Obama in 2008 for the rally after his election.
The Blackhawks were introduced one by one at the rally, and the team's top scorer in the playoffs, forward Patrick Sharp, said the fans make Chicago "the best place to play in all of the NHL.
"What do you say we get back here and do it again next year?" he asked the cheering crowd.
Forward Patrick Kane, official playoffs MVP, "awarded" a championship belt to goalie Corey Crawford, whom he called the actual "best player" in the playoffs.
Crawford held the belt over his head and said his teammates "worked their f-----g nuts off.
"We're the champs," he said.
Surveying the crowd from the stage, Toews, still holding the Cup, said that when the team won in 2010, the players didn't think the fans could top the turnout for that rally. He then declared: "This shows how unbelievable this city is."
Speakers then blasted "Chelsea Dagger," the well-known song played after every goal and victory at the United Center, as confetti was shot off and the Blackhawks danced on stage and took turns hoisting the trophy.
Earlier, John McDonough, president and CEO of the team, praised the team for bringing the Cup "home to Chicago, Illinois. ... We are Chicago proud."
Team chairman Rocky Wirtz thanked the fans "on behalf of my family." He complimented Coach Joel Quenneville for not only being a good coach but one with "a better sense of humor."
To the players, he said: "You're decent young men. A little furry at times, but without question, gifted athletes."
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn, who received some boos, also spoke.
Todd Marsell, of Plainfield, brought his two sons, ages 6 and 10, on a 5:30 a.m. train and headed straight to Grant Park.
"We just came because we knew it'd be a once-in-a-lifetime event," Marsell said. "How many times do you say I can take my kids down to see the Stanley Cup?"
The parade kicked off a little earlier than the 10:30 a.m. scheduled start from the United Center, with the team piling onto double-decker buses.
A Stanley Cup replica was being passed around outside the United Center, with fans lining up to kiss and hoist the "cup" over their heads.
The fake cup belonged to Jim Wissemes, a 41-year-old airplane mechanic from Carol Stream who made it out of pots, pans and a cat food bowl.
"I'm not skilled, it just happened to come out OK," Wissemes said of the replica, which he created out of his equal love for both the Hawks and his daughter, a goalie for the Chicago Fury, a female team.
"She's way better than dad ever was," Wissemes said laughing.
After the Hawks boarded the buses, they headed to Washington Boulevard and Des Plaines Street, where the official part of the parade began at Des Plaines. It continued east on Washington, where police shut down streets, and even the underground pedway, to accommodate the throngs trying to get a peak of the victorious team.
The caravan continued to Michigan Avenue, where fans stood on garbage cans and climbed street lights to get a view. It then headed down Columbus Drive to Hutchinson Field.
There were no cannons shooting newspaper in a ticker tape-style parade, like the White Sox had in 2005. But there was plenty of confetti, and fans brought their own handmade signs to honor the Hawks.
Extra CTA trains were added to bring fans to the Loop, while 30 CTA buses were detoured.
All east-west streets between Roosevelt Road and Randolph Street from Michigan Avenue to Lake Shore Drive were closed. Those streets include Balbo Avenue, Jackson Street and Monroe Street. Congress will remain open.
Although members of the team carried champagne bottles on the buses during the last parade, this time they appeared better behaved. Fans were not allowed to have alcohol along the parade route, although some snuck sips from paper bags and water bottles.
With bright sun and temperatures hitting 82 degrees, police tossed water bottles to the crowd and the Chicago Fire Department used misting units were used to cool down the crowd.
The Fire Department said after the rally that it had to take 42 people to hospitals from the rally and treated 91 people at the scene.
The department tweeted that some 20 suburbs sent ambulance to help, and had more standing by nearby.
Contributing: Jackie Kostek, Juan Thompson