July 28, 2013 by Cups n Pucks
I had the pleasure of attending the 6th annual Blackhawks Convention. With tired feet, an empty wallet, and partially met expectations, I have mixed feelings about the series of events last weekend. It was my first time going to the event so I have nothing to compare it to other than my own expectations (in contrast to Andy who is a seasoned veteran). From moments of uncontainable excitement to disappointment, here are the highs and lows of this year’s convention from a newbie’s perspective.
For starters, I want to compliment the coordination between Hilton, the Blackhawks, and the United Center. The event was extremely organized and every event happened in its designated place at its designated time. Every staff member I talked to was able to direct me to wherever I needed to be with much appreciated patience.
The attendance was also a pleasant surprise. I initially thought it was going to be pure chaos with a dog-eat-dog, every fan for himself attitude. While the crowds may have been a little chaotic at times, everyone was respectful and friendly with one another. I didn’t see any elbowing or hair pulling for autographs, line-cutters, or seat savers. Everyone was there to be a fan and celebrate the memorable season.Scheduled Events:
Another aspect I was pleased with was the scheduled events. From Second City skits, to player discussions, to emotional season recaps, there was something for everyone. You were able to hear players and management talk in depth on a personal level about things that may have been glossed over in public interviews. Hearing Bowman, Wirtz, and McDonough share stories and watching players interact and let loose in an informal setting (i.e. watching Shaw, Saad, Bickell, and Smith twerk) is what makes the Convention special and unique from watching on-air, post-game interviews. Scratch and Win!
My last high wouldn’t have been without pure luck. Unless you booked a hotel room, when you pick up your passes on the first day you are given a scratch-and-win card. If it said you were a winner, you got a color-coated card that guaranteed an autograph at a designated place and time. The person signing at your event would not be announced until 20 or 30 minutes before. Joe and I were both lucky enough to be ‘winner-winner chicken dinners’ of a Patrick Kane signing. Had I not won, I wouldn’t be coming home with any big name autographs. This would have probably shifted my perspective on the Convention.
Lines! Lines! Lines!
One of the hardest things for me to get around from this weekend was the lines. For one, people were lining up to get wristbands for people like Tony Esposito four hours beforehand. Did I want his autograph and the chance to meet him? Hell yeah, but I also didn’t want to waste half my day waiting around. If I’m going to wait that long I’d at least like the chance to talk to a player, introduce myself, shake hands, take a picture, get a couple things signed. Even with Kane, my guaranteed autograph, I wasn’t able to get so much as two words out of him. When I went to shake his hand and thank him, he was already onto the next fan. It felt so rushed and impersonal. Another problem with line control was that there were several lines snaking through the entire hotel at any given moment. Maybe it would be best to have designated rooms for such lines, or better yet, give people a number so that fans aren’t standing around blocking other events and walkways.More opportunities for big name players
Scheduling and not realistically getting many big name autographs sort of go hand in hand for me. For example, instead of having Saad sign once on Saturday morning, have players sign at multiple times on multiple days; giving people more than one shot. If they also overlapped big name players, it would have dispersed the crowd better, ensuring more people a chance at getting an autograph they wanted.* I understand they can’t make Toews, Kane, Sharp, Keith, and Crawford accessible to everyone without them being absolutely bombarded but I do wish I had a better chance with more players. Though I was fortunate enough to not run into the problem, if I had not won a scratch off autograph, I would be coming home near empty handed.Attendance
*Another factor to consider is the number of players who were not in attendance such as Seabrook (his wife is due with their first child any minute now), Hjalmarsson (his wedding was this weekend), as well as Hossa and Oduya who are at home overseas.What I learned:
Be prepared in every sense of the word. Wear comfortable shoes, bring water, don’t dress too warm. More importantly: bring your own sharpies (just-in-case) and bring every single piece of Blackhawks merch and/or hockey gear you would ever want signed by a Blackhawk. You really don’t know who you are going to get the chance to meet so be prepared for big players, rookies, alum, coaches, upper management. I ran into Coach Q and was lucky enough to have my own sharpie for him to sign with.
Finally, go to the Convention with the sole expectation of having fun. Don’t go just for the chance to meet Toews or you will be sorely disappointed. It’s the memories of the full package that make it special, not the autograph you may or may not get.My Rating: B+