The Blackhawks tooled around on the ice of their new building, the MB Ice Arena just a few blocks away from the United Center. To see it, which the Blackhawks had done a few times already, was one thing. To skate in it, work out in it and pretty much make it a second home was another.
“It’s a lot of fun. I’m excited to spend some time here. We’ll be up in that shooting room a lot playing some competitions and stuff,” Nick Schmaltz said of the second-floor target-shooting stations, one of the many perks at their new practice facility. “Hopefully we get an Xbox in the lounge. We’ll be here until 8 every night.”
The Blackhawks going from Johnny’s IceHouse West to this new facility is like Dorothy stepping out of the sepia-toned Kansas and into the Land of Oz. Besides the two NHL-sized rinks there’s the fitness center, the RapidShot shooting machines and a bigger Blackhawks locker room. The Blackhawks reveled in trying some of the amenities for the first time on Thursday.
“It’s always fun to fill it out for the first day,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I thought the ice was great, the boards are great, the building’s bright. Inside the [locker] room there is second to none, has everything you’d ever want, so kind of spoiled in a different fashion.”
Corey Crawford said, “We’re pretty lucky. We’re pretty spoiled to begin with, and now it’s another level. It’s a big facility, and we have everything we need here. It’s pretty great. Definitely thankful for this.”
The Blackhawks have upgraded. Players, coaches and staff already spent a lot of time at the rink. Considering some of the perks at the new place, they may be hanging around the rink that much more now.
“We have a few gadgets and toys that guys want to test out. Upstairs in the gym guys can test out their shot. They don’t have to be on the ice all day. There’s so much space. It’s a great facility all round for guys to take care of themselves – whether it’s during the season or the offseason,” Jonathan Toews said. “Guys are going to want to be around here all day every day.”