Blackhawks visit Notre Dame for preseason training
Notre Dame hockey season is right around the corner, and Compton Family Ice Arena was buzzing to start the week. However, the excitement wasn't for the Irish but for the Chicago Blackhawks, who visited town and took the ice for part of its preseason practices.
"[They're] the two best teams in hockey, Notre Dame and the Blackhawks," said Michigan City native and fan Celeste Hussey. "Shoot, you can't get any better than that."
Though the two are just a short drive apart, the NHL's Blackhawks coming to Notre Dame gives local fans a unique experience, but it's also and important time for the players as well.
"Coming to Notre Dame, it's a great campus, a great facility here and it's been fun to get together with the boys and have some team time," said Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook.That team time is necessary, after a promising year saw the first-place Hawks eliminated by the Nashville Predators in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and they see this time at Notre Dame as one part of a larger goal to reset.
"It's a little different environment," said center Nick Schmaltz. "We get to go on the road a little bit and get to know some of the new guys on the team, and spend some time with each other. Hopefully we'll have some momentum going in and come in with a new mindset
“It’s a little different environment. We get to go on the road a little bit and get to know some of the new guys on the team and spend some time with each other, and kind of a fresh slate. It should be fun."
That fun is a big reason why so many spent their day at the rink, and why some even went so far as to play hookie.
"I kind of skipped school," said young fan Zaehn Hughes. "I had to fake a cold or something and I got to come here!"
While it's not the first time the Blackhawks have visited campus, one player in particular had a homecoming of sorts. Former Irish star Vinnie Hinostroza returned to his alma mater, to the delight of his college fans.
"When you see them play here," said Hussey, "you go, 'wow, that kid's fast.' Then you see him go to the Blackhawks? Well, that's cool. That works!"
Hinostroza and the Hawks still have a job to do, however. Luckily for Irish fans, they chose to start it right here in town.
"We want to be ready and prepared right off the start," said Seabrook. "[We want] to have the best start we can have and try to carry that through the season, and get ourselves ready for the playoffs."
The Blackhawks begin their new season on October 5 against defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. That very weekend, Notre Dame begins its regular season as well.