It's been months since there was a meaningful hockey game played in Chicago, but that changed Saturday when Patrick Kane and Vinnie Hinostroza teammed up to play in a charity game benefitting the Special Olympics Chicago.
And the turnout was a sight to see.
Nearly 1,700 fans packed the Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva to cheer on a diverse roster group consisting of current and former NHL players such as Ian Cole (Penguins), Jake McCabe (Sabres), Brandon Pirri (free agent), Garret Sparks (Maple Leafs), Ben Eager and Dan Carcillo, organizational prospects and coaches including Anthony Louis, Tommy Olczyk and Sheldon Brookbank, three USA women's gold medalists in Megan Bozek, Kendall Coyne and Alex Rigsby, and two USA Paralympic ice-sledge champions in Kevin McKee and Josh Pauls.
"Great cause, supporting the Special Olympics," Kane said. "When you meet these kids, they're hard not to cheer for. You become impressed with everyone that you meet. You meet these kids and they have so much passion, such a positive outlook on life, nothing can really get them down."
Said Hinostroza: "In these things, you don't really know how hard to go. The most important thing is everyone's having fun. It's a great turnout and a lot of money's being raised for a great cause."
Having a player of Kane's caliber, a three-time Stanley Cup winner and 2016 Hart Trophy recipient, headlining the first ever Chicago Hockey Charity Classic put together by Topher Scott, a former Chicago Steel hockey player and former player and assistant coach at Cornell University who has two brothers with special needs that are athletes, was crucial for what hopes to become an annual event.
"It's absolutely huge," Kevin Magnuson, the son of Blackhawks great Keith Magnuson and board president of Special Olympics Chicago, said of Kane. "He's always been a good person. He's just matured a lot. With him saying yes, he has become the complete package of what a Chicago athlete is all about and what a Chicago Blackhawk is all about. The fact that he supported us and our organization speaks volumes."
And the best news: A total of $139,437 was raised for the Special Olympics Chicago, shattering the goal of $100,000.
"No, I thought that was a really lofty goal," Magnuson admitted when asked whether he thought they'd reach their mark. "When you hear 100 grand, that's a lot of money and eight months ago when it's just a phone call, it's just so hard for me to wrap my head around it.
"People came together. That's Chicago, that's what we do here. We rally around each other, especially the Chicago hockey communities have always been tight. And then the growth the last 10 years with the Blackhawks success, here it is. You're seeing it first hand how much people love hockey."
Here are a few highlights from the event, and reaction from those who were a part of it:
It's Showtime in the press room.— Chi Hockey Classic (@ChiHkyClassi) August 5, 2017