The greatest -- or at the least the most publicly accessible -- victory lap in all of sports has picked up where it left off three years ago, with the Blackhawks trotting the Stanley Cup around Chicago as the city celebrates its second NHL championship since 2010.
And this time the fans are ready.
Hundreds waited behind fences at O'Hare International Airport to welcome the bleary-eyed team home from Boston. The team plane carrying the Blackhawks and their championship trophy touched down shortly after 4 a.m., taxiing between fire trucks shooting water into the air and coming to rest in front of a small throng of fans.
Players mingled briefly with supporters but did not address the media before boarding a team bus. Just as they did three years ago, the players stopped first at Harry Caray's in Rosemont to celebrate with their families. Roughly 1,000 fans dressed in bright-red Hawks gear waited outside the Italian steakhouse hoping to catch a glimpse of the team.
After about an hour at the restaurant, several players traveled to the South Loop for a private party at The Scout bar. Crowds swelled outside the tavern around 6:15 a.m., hoping to catch a glimpse of the trophy which was hidden from public view by the brown paper covering the establishment's windows.
Meanwhile, the city announced plans for a victory rally on Friday, though the time and location have not been released. In 2010, Chicago feted the club with a massive parade and rally that was one of the best-attended celebrations in city history.
"The City of Chicago is thrilled to congratulate our own Chicago Blackhawks on their hard-fought victory, once again bringing the Stanley Cup back to their sweet home Chicago," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. "Our best wishes go out to the Bruins and the city of Boston for a well-played series. In the past few months, the people of Boston have showed how they can pull together and the Bruins have represented that same spirit, demonstrating what makes Boston a truly world-class city. Our congratulations go out to Rocky Wirtz, Coach Joel Quenneville, the incredible Blackhawks players, and the whole Blackhawks family for their dedication and determination to make Chicago a championship city once again. The City of Big Shoulders stood shoulder to shoulder with the Blackhawks all season and we are all looking forward to welcoming them home as champions.”Copyright © 2015, RedEye