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25 IN 25: A New Home

Exactly 25 years ago today, the Blackhawks played their first game at the United Center

by Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com

To celebrate 25 years of Blackhawks hockey at the United Center, Blackhawks.com looks back on the top 25 moments with '25 in 25'

Delayed by a lockout, the 1994-95 National Hockey League regular season began three months late with the schedule shaved to 48 games. For fans in Chicago, it was worth the wait because waiting for them was the debut of a spectacular building.

Across the street from the beloved Stadium, the United Center offered all the trappings and amenities imaginable. More than 200 suites, restaurants, dining areas, soft seats, unobstructed views, hefty sound system, radio play-by-play piped into restrooms. Absent was the blue haze that occasionally nested below the Stadium ceiling on warm nights when the air conditioning apparatus was overmatched.

On that historic evening, January 25, 1995, construction workers who created this shiny home palace for the Blackhawks and Bulls were honored on the ice in a pregame ceremony. Another special guest was Wayne Messmer, popular vocalist who sang the Star-Spangled Banner at the Stadium. Driving home the previous April, Messmer was shot in the neck. He survived after 10 hours of surgery, but fretted that his voice would be imperiled.

Fortunately, Messmer made it to the United Center for one more stirring rendition before 20,536 fans who cheered throughout the National Anthem, a tradition that was brought across the street. Instantly, it became evident that this modern facility, roughly three times the size of the Blackhawks' home since 1929, would also hold noise rather well. The fans were ready.

So were the Blackhawks, who played a September exhibition game at the UC before the work stoppage and lost two road games when play resumed. They waxed the Edmonton Oilers, 5-1, outshooting them 37-18, including 16-1 in the second period of a truculent game. Joe Murphy scored the first Blackhawks' goal at the United Center, assisted on a second period power play at 11:33 by Chris Chelios and Jeremy Roenick. It was Roenick who scored the last Blackhawks' goal at the Stadium in an April playoff victory.

Keith Carney made it 2-0 and Chelios added a powerplay goal for a 3-0 bulge. In the third period, Jeff Shantz tallied at 27 seconds, followed shortly by a Bernie Nicholls shorthanded score. At this point, the Blackhawks chased Bill Ranford, a highly-respected goalie and 1990 Conn Smythe Trophy recipient. Ed Belfour, a future Hall of Famer, was the winning netminder. "A very special night," said Nicholls afterward. "The crowd was great. The fans were an extra player for us."  

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