CHICAGO - Showered with confetti and cheered by screaming fans, the Blackhawks wound their way through downtown Chicago on open-topped buses Friday to celebrate the team's stunning Stanley Cup victory.
Thousands of fans who ditched work and painted their faces red and black roared as the buses moved past carrying waving players in red jerseys including forward Jonathan Toews who cradled the bar-hopping silver trophy.
Before dawn, crowds jammed entrances to the rally site in Grant Park along Lake Michigan where the parade was headed. Some die-hard fans camped out overnight, ready to sprint to the big stage at the front of the park the minute police swung barriers aside.
Some fans hauled homemade versions of the silver Stanley Cup, including one fashioned from an empty beer keg.
One supporter along the parade route held a sign that said, "Thank you, guys." Another said, "Best 17 seconds of my life," referring to the pair of goals scored just seconds apart in the final minutes of the Hawks' 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins on Monday night.
Twenty-somethings Courtney Baldwin and Meghan O'Kane, from the city's suburbs, slapped together a homemade Stanley Cup out of a jumble of jugs and plastic bowls painted grey. Early in the morning, it was not yet full of frothy beverage.
"It will be this afternoon," Baldwin said.
The Blackhawks gave the city something to celebrate as the Cubs and White Sox grind through another lost summer and after the Bears failed to make the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
And fans took note.
"We love the Blackhawks. This is history and this is a championship, unlike the Cubs," O'Kane said, taking a shot at a team that hasn't won a World Series since 1908.
For the Blackhawks, it was the second time they have brought the Stanley Cup home in three years.
This season's victory was dramatic. Trailing Boston until the final minutes, Chicago scored twice in 17 seconds. Delirious fans bolted from bars to celebrate in the streets. Car horns blared.
The party roared overnight and into the next day as the team returned from Boston and, making good on an NHL tradition, toted the Cup around bars and restaurants to the delight of onlookers and fans who tried to keep up.
Sarah Schmidt, 22, who grew up in Chicago and made the pilgrimage to Friday's celebrations from Milwaukee, telling her boss she was taking the day off no matter what -- and hoping she would still have her bar tending job when the party was over.
"I can't miss this," she said.