SOLDIER FIELD — Two million Blackhawks fans gathered Downtown Thursday to cheer on their favorite hockey team during their third Stanley Cup championship parade and rally in six years, city officials said.
A motorcade of double-decker buses and trolleys left United Center around 10 a.m., filled with Blackhawks players, their family and friends, and the pride of hockey fans. Now, fans are preparing for the rally at Soldier Field, where some fans who didn't manage to get tickets on Wednesday were brought in to help fill the stadium, Channel 7 tweeted.
Fans lined the streets of Downtown creating a river of red jerseys on Washington and Monroe streets, cheering their heroes, with some carrying homemade, replica Stanley Cups. At many points along the route, fans were many rows deep.
The city's count includes those who were along the parade route, inside Soldier Field and at the stadium's parking lot, according to Melissa Stratton, the spokeswoman for the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined players on one bus as did Gov. Bruce Rauner. Cheers were particularly loud for buses carrying Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad as well as Patrick Kane. In one, Brent Seabrook held the Stanley Cup.
At around 11:25 a.m., players arrived at Soldier Field for a rally there. The stadium wasn't completely filled but those in attendance were joyful, with many carrying banners. Fans without tickets gathered outside the lakefront stadium.
Earlier, Union Station was a "madhouse," said Blackhawks fan Amanda Palmquist, 21. People poured in from the suburbs, with Hawks aficionados like Palmquist planning to head in late to work or skip it completely so they can celebrate at the parade and rally. Kane said the event, the third in six years, is "always an adrenaline rush."
"This year seems busier than last time," Palmquist said. "It as a madhouse at Union Station, but we're excited to be here."
The parade, which started at 10 a.m., has drawn in thousands. There have been reports of fans "dropping like flies" along the parade route and people receiving treatment for heat-related issues.
Blackhawks fans flooded Ticketmaster on Wednesday to try and snag tickets to the post-parade rally at Soldier Field. Users reported the site freezing and crashing, with Palmquist's friend, Morgan Harrison, 22, saying she was on the website for three hours but it "kept having issues."
Harrison and Palmquist opted for celebrating along the parade route instead of going to the rally, although David Kennedy, who organized the celebration, said some people who didn't grab tickets might be able to get into the rally.
"We came to this spot because it wouldn't be too busy and we'd actually get to see the parade ... not like at Soldier Field," Harrison said.
This celebration is particularly notable because it marks the third time in six years the Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup after a nearly 50-year drought. It's the also the first time the Hawks have won the cup at home in 77 years.
"... The dynasty aspect makes it really cool," said Amy Gorecki, who brought her 8-year-old son, Damen, from St. Charles to the parade.
Dugar Moyer wasn't taking any chances on missing any of the fun, leaving northwest suburban Crystal Lake around 11 p.m. Wednesday and arriving at Soldier Field around 1 a.m., he said.
"It's been pretty crazy, there's a lot of energy. We've just been in line trying to stay warm," Moyer said, adding he was one of 20 fans shivering in their jerseys before sunrise Thursday.
Around 7 a.m., it was a much different scene with about 150 fans in line and several other packs spread out in front of large TV screens surrounding the field.
"I'm actually excited just to see the city's reaction to this neat event," Moyer said, adding he's expecting a bigger party than the 2013 championship.
When Nicholaus Petri, 22, arrived around 4:45 a.m., "it wasn't too bad, luckily," he said.
"We've been standing around killing time. We got up at 3 a.m. because we live an hour away. We're just making it through," said Petri, whose been a die-hard Hawks fan since he was 5. "I've been a fan for years now, before they were no on one. Before they started winning."
Petri missed the rally in 2013 because he was working, but he wasn't going to let that happen this year, he said.
"I called off work today," Petri said. "I told my buddies from the get-go to get ready for the Stanley Cup because we're going to [see it]. I don't care what we have to do," he said.
Andrea McDonald and Tana Scott, both 51, sacrificed their Thursday pay at Country Places in far south suburban Peotone, where they've been "extremely excited" following the Blackhawks all season, they said.
"The only thing we're disappointed about is not getting the tickets because people bought them and sold them," said McDonald, a Hawks season ticket holder for three years in the '80s.
The two traveled from Peotone for the Downtown rallies in 2010 and 2013, but believed this one wouldn't be as big because of the ticket sellout.
"I don't know if it'll be as big because of the stadium and getting tickets," said Scott.
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