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25 IN 25: Ambassadors Take the Ice

Before the Blackhawks opened the home portion of the historic 2009-10 season, their four Hall of Fame ambassadors took to the ice

by Bob Verdi /

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

With a new era of good feeling abounding, the Blackhawks opened their 2009-10 home season in spectacular fashion. Their four Hall of Fame ambassadors - Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Tony Esposito and Denis Savard - suited up in full uniforms and skated onto the United Center ice before the regularly scheduled game.

Being proud legends, all of them engaged in a morning "practice." Hull promised he would do his best "not to fall down." Esposito, meticulous as ever, dived into boxes of old stuff and resurrected his original equipment. One by one, they emerged from the west end of the building, to a crescendo of roars from a capacity crowd of 20,655.

Savard, the youngest, was first. Then came Tony, theatrically shedding his vintage mask en route. Then arrived Mikita, pumping his arms, as if to generate more speed. Then No. 9, Hull, striding ever so carefully, stick upraised. When he reached fellow ambassadors at the blue line, Hull and Mikita locked right arms for a quick do si do.

Captain Jonathan Toews, taking it all in with the current Blackhawks, joined Mikita in guiding The Golden Jet toward his landing spot. "Not much power left in the legs," rued Mikita, who played his entire career with the Blackhawks. Esposito, an advocate of the premise that goalies never regret retiring, shunned skates in his golden years but said he enjoyed the retro-moment. Besides, nobody shot any pucks at him.

Hull was beaming. "Fabulous," he said. "This was a special night for us and it will get even more special as the years go on."

That evening - October 10, 2009 - was not only emotional and cathartic. It served as a precursor to the organization's "One More Shift" initiative that would welcome back other former Blackhawks. President/CEO John McDonough, who assumed his post in 2007, promised that the Blackhawks would embrace their history, and he meant it. "After leaving here in 1972, I never thought I'd be back," sighed Hull.

Video: 25 in 25: One More Shift

The Blackhawks, who began their season in Finland, beat the Colorado Avalanche, 4-3, that night.

"We think we have a product worthy of attention," said McDonough. Hull went a step beyond: "I expect them this team to be playing for the silverware." Nostradamus speaks. Almost exactly eight months later, the Blackhawks earned a Stanley Cup in Philadelphia, the first for the franchise since Hull and Mikita won it as kids in 1961.

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