The Chicago Blackhawks announced today that they will launch a yearlong celebration of amateur hockey in Illinois by offering youth hockey players the opportunity to join the team on-ice during the opening night pregame ceremonies on Wednesday, Oct. 12, when the team hosts the St. Louis Blues at 7 p.m.
Youth hockey players in Illinois between the ages of 8 and 12 are invited to let the Blackhawks know what they have done off the ice – either in the community, at school or with family and friends – that makes them a good representative of their club and youth hockey in Illinois. Twenty players will be selected to participate in the opening night on-ice pregame ceremonies. Written submissions will be accepted from Wednesday, Aug. 31-Wednesday, Sept. 14, and can be mailed to the Chicago Blackhawks (attn: Opening Ceremony, 1901 W. Madison St., Chicago, IL, 60612). For more information and to download the printable submission form, please visit blackhawks.nhl.com/OpeningCeremony2016.
Per USA Hockey, Illinois ranked sixth in the nation with 31,558 registered hockey players during the 2015-16 season, marking a 42.0 percent increase in membership since the 2007-08 season, which is the second-largest percent increase among USA Hockey regional affiliates. Since 2007-08, Illinois saw the largest total increase in participants among USA Hockey regional affiliates with 9,334 new members. The Blackhawks currently have partnerships with over 50 hockey rinks in Illinois, including four within the city of Chicago.
Highlights of the yearlong salute to amateur hockey also include the 2017 National Hockey League Draft, 2017 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Frozen Four, Illinois State High School Hockey Championships and December 2017 opening of the Chicago Blackhawks Community Training Center.
The NHL Draft will be held at the United Center on Friday, June 23, and Saturday, June 24, 2017. NHL club executives, scouts and coaches will be present on the NHL Draft floor while more than 15,000 fans and hundreds of print, television and radio media are expected to attend. The 2017 event will mark the first time the Blackhawks and the city of Chicago host the NHL Draft.
In conjunction with the University of Notre Dame, the United Center was also selected to host the 2017 NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship, marking the first time the event has been held at the United Center. The competition, also known as the Frozen Four, will take place April 6-8, 2017. The Frozen Four is the culmination of the NCAA’s 16-team tournament to determine the collegiate national champion. The tournament, which began in 1948, has branded its semi-final and final games as the Frozen Four since 1999. The single-elimination tournament was expanded to its current 16-team format in 2003.
The 2016-17 season will also mark the 30th anniversary of the Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois’ (AHAI) Illinois State High School Hockey Championships at the United Center/Chicago Stadium. The Boys Red Division has featured 15 different schools in the championship over the last 29 years and nearly 50,000 fans have attended the Boys Red Division, Boys Combined Division and Girls Division championships in just the last six years combined. AHAI was founded as the governing body of Illinois amateur hockey in 1975 and has partnered with the Blackhawks in numerous initiatives over the past 30 years.
The 125,000 square-foot Chicago Blackhawks Community Training Center, located two blocks south of the United Center on a four-acre site formerly housing Malcolm X College, is set to open in December 2017. The state-of-the-art facility will house year-round youth hockey development programs, recreational leagues and events, and serve as the practice facility for the organization and visiting NHL teams. The facility will contain two NHL regulation-size ice rinks, spectator seating and a dedicated oasis parking lot to serve facility guests and buses. Approximately 94 percent of its utilization will be from outside the Blackhawks organization, including by young adult, youth and community programs for children in Chicago. The project is expected to create 21 permanent and 250 construction jobs. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz broke ground on the organization’s $55 million Community Training Center on June 15, 2016.