Today should be a holiday for all hockey fans. But it especially feels that way as a Blackhawks fan.
Tonight, players will don alternate uniforms of suits, ties, and for last year’s Cup winners, a hefty new piece of jewelry, as they walk a red carpet into the United Center.
One side of the ring has 2013 with five Stanley Cups, representing the team’s five titles. The other side holds the player’s name and number.
The inside is inscribed with the team’s motto “One Goal” as well as the logos of the finals’ opponents and their wins-to-losses.
Captain Jonathan Toews, forwards Patrick Kane, Bryan Bickell, Brandon Bollig, Michal Handzus, Jimmy Hayes, Marian Hossa, Marcus Kruger, Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp, Ben Smith, Andrew Shaw; defensemen Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Sheldon Brookbank, Nick Leddy, Johnny Oduya, Michal Rozsival, Brent Seabrook; and goalie Corey Crawford are all returning this year.
Joakim Nordstrom will be the lone new guy on the ice tonight with starting lines planned as Bickell, Toews, Kane; Sharp, Handzus, Hossa; Saad, Shaw, Hayes; and Bollig, Kruger and Nordstrom.
Ben Smith is the only forward scratched from tonight’s starting lineup, while Sheldon Brookbank and Mike Kostka are out for defense.
Handzus and Hossa are back in the game after missing the preseason after an injury.
The Blackhawks beat the Capitals by 1 (5-4, 4-3) both preseason games this year. This preseason aside, the teams have not played each other since March 18, 2012 at the Madhouse on Madison, when Chicago won 5-2.
That’s no reason to be overconfident. Last year, the Blackhawks rained on the Kings’ parade with a win during the Kings’ banner ceremony. After the Hawks’ 2010 Cup win, the Redwings put a damper on the banner-raising celebration at the 2011 home opener.
After the pomp and circumstance, once the banner is raised to the rafters, that will be it for celebration.
Jim Cornelison will sing his show-stopping rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, chills will travel through bodies and TV sets into the souls of fans.
The puck will drop.
And a new season will begin…with One Goal.