The Blackhawks' prospects got the chance to experience a new, state-of-the-art practice facility over the past week at Development Camp.
MB Ice Arena is in the midst of its eighth month as the practice home for the Blackhawks, just two blocks away from where the team takes the ice for competition.
The distance between the two bases might be minimal, but the difference in amenities is even smaller. A major component of the practice facility includes a replica of the United Center ice in one of the rinks, and the similarities don't stop there.
"It's definitely cool to skate on the same ice as the Blackhawks, and the dressing room area is pretty much the exact same as the United Center," defensive prospect Ian Mitchell said. "I think it's good to kind of familiarize yourself and your surroundings."
The Blackhawks hold practices on the Hyundai Rink that features the United Center replica ice, which brings a familiar advantage.
For the prospects who have high NHL goals for as early as this season, it also brings a huge development advantage for this week.
"It's best to have the right way of training on that kind of ice, what it's going to be [like] in the United Center," top prospect Henri Jokiharju said. "That helps you a lot."
In the planning phases of the facility, more than 50 different arenas were visited to pick and choose the best overall elements to include in MB Ice Arena.
Each staff group then got to help design the area they would be working in - the training staff helped design its workspace, the equipment staff got to design its room - and it helped to make each space as functional as possible.
The Blackhawks have about 30 thousand square feet of space in their area alone, including a gym flooded with natural light and the best-of-the-best in every aspect.
"I think everything (the team provides) is of the best teams in the league," Jokiharju said. "[Good training] kind of goes for the theme."
That's the beauty of hosting Development Camp in a facility like MB Ice Arena, the prospects really are immersed in the NHL feel and get to experience the everyday life at the arena - something that might not be too far off in the future.
The state-of-the-art facility also is an extension of the Blackhawks brand.
"If you have the opportunity to play in a facility that treats their players the way the Blackhawks do, it's definitely a positive," General Manager of MB Ice Arena Andrea Hahn said.
Seeing all of the Blackhawks amenities and logos scattered throughout the building cements the idea that MB Ice Arena is home to the club, and not just for visitors and fans.
For many of the prospects at Development Camp, this was a 'welcome to the NHL' moment.
"It's been even better than what I could dream of," 2018 third-round draft pick Jake Wise said. "Everything's so first class here and I've never been used to - like they handled our bag for us when we got here, and I've always had to bring my bag to the rink and unpack it, so seeing them do that that was the first thing I really noticed. It's just awesome."
In addition to the Blackhawks, MB Ice Arena also has a number of youth league tenants that call it home for their seasons.
As part of the Blackhawks First Stride initiative with local Chicago public schools, each week fourth and fifth graders get to experience a nicer facility than any could imagine.
MB Ice Arena takes pride in the opportunity it presents the community for families and fans who would otherwise be unable to experience the sport of hockey.
"These are customers who might not necessarily be able to afford to go to the United Center," Hahn said. "Maybe they have never seen a Blackhawks game at the United Center, well they can come here and be able to do that for practice at no cost."
The Blackhawks brand, from performance on the ice to presence in the community, has taken a step forward in creating a universal space connecting the top tier NHL to those just being introduced to hockey, while also making strides in performance facilities across the board.