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Blackhawks share Cup with Walter Reed patients, staff

by Dan Rosen

BETHESDA, Md. -- The Chicago Blackhawks have spent the past four years developing a relationship with the USA Wounded Warriors hockey team. On Monday, they finally brought the Stanley Cup to the group of hockey players they admire so much.

The Blackhawks spent roughly 90 minutes Monday morning visiting with wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. They mingled, signed autographs and took pictures with the veterans, including a few single- and double-amputee hockey players that participate in the Wounded Warriors program.

Following the visit, the Blackhawks left Walter Reed to travel to the White House, where they were honored by President Barack Obama. They brought with them four of the wounded warriors, including double-amputees Marine Cpl. Patrick Brown and Army Capt. Mark Little.

The team gave Cpl. Brown signed pucks that he was planning to use to decorate his basement.

"Whether it's here or back in Chicago, if we get to share the Stanley Cup with them for a little bit it always reminds you to keep your feet on the ground when people are asking you for your autograph and celebrating the championship you won, knowing that those people are really sacrificing for not only themselves and their families, but sacrificing their lives for the country," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "It puts everything into perspective. It's a special thing for us to be able to do that."

The Blackhawks also visited Walter Reed after winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, and since then they have developed a relationship with the Wounded Warriors. The Blackhawks invited the Wounded Warriors to skate with them at Soldier Field last season and visited with them again when they came to D.C. for an exhibition game against the Washington Capitals on Sept. 20.

Blackhawks president John McDonough announced Monday that the Wounded Warriors will be invited back to Chicago to play at Soldier Field around the time of the 2014 Coors Light Stadium Series game there. The Blackhawks play the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field on March 1.

"The next time we come back [to Walter Reed] I think we should be asking you for autographs," McDonough said in his remarks at the Medical Center. "Thank you for what you have done for us as Americans and thank you for our freedom."

Toews presented a white Blackhawks sweater with the number 13 and WALTER REED on the back to Captain David A. Bitoni, commander of the Naval Support Activity Bethesda with responsibility for the military base in Bethesda.

"A lot of teamwork goes into winning the Stanley Cup," Toews said, "but it's absolutely nothing compared to what you guys do."

Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) also addressed the crowd. Quigley is a Chicago native and a Blackhawks fan, and also has helped foster the relationship between the Blackhawks and the Wounded Warriors hockey team.

Quigley called the Blackhawks the "classiest team in sports."

"Special moment," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of the visit to Walter Reed. "Great feeling. Great seeing those guys again. We saw them in 2010, saw them at Soldier Field, saw them early on in the exhibition game here in Washington. These guys are excited to see us, they want to get back on the ice with us. It was great visiting with them and seeing how they're progressing as well."


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