CHICAGO (AP) -Thousands of cheering Blackhawks fans lined the streets of downtown Chicago on Friday to congratulate the team for winning the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship since 1961.
The triumphant Blackhawks rode through the streets of Chicago in double-decker buses as fans roared and confetti spilled from the rooftops. Team legends, including Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito, joined current players on the open-topped buses. A sea of fans wearing the team's red-and-black colors streamed into the streets behind the caravan as it headed to Michigan Avenue.
The parade and rally drew new fans along with die-hards like 23-year-old Andy Dwyer of St. Charles, who has the tattoos to prove it, one on each calf and the newest inked on Wednesday. He said his team will go all the way again next year.
"I love my Blackhawks," said Dwyer, a Hawks flag draped around his shoulders as a cape. "There are no words to express the joy and the excitement that the Hawks have brought the Stanley Cup back to Chicago."
The Blackhawks beat the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime Wednesday to win the series 4-2.
Chicago resident Don McCauley said even an afternoon game between the city's baseball rivals, the White Sox and the Cubs, wouldn't keep him away from the celebration.
"It is summertime. It is a beautiful time to be in Chicago," McCauley said.
Alex Manley, 18, of West Chicago wore a feathered headdress and admitted to being new to Blackhawks fandom.
"I love bandwagons. They're the best," Manley said. "You get to dress up, it's great."
Thrilled to have the silver cup back in Chicago, fans brought tin foil replicas to the parade. They climbed street lights and stood atop parking garages to get a better view of the real cup.
Marcie Karavakis, 53, of Chicago, brought her standard poodle, Curly, who stood quietly amid the throng.
"This might not have been such a great idea," Karavakis said as she pondered the best way to squeeze through the crowds that stood 100 feet deep in some spots along the motorcade's route.
A day before the parade, Michael Pigozzi was selling Blackhawks gear along the Chicago River downtown, from a $5 pin to a $150 jersey.
"We didn't even have the T-shirts out of boxes and we were selling them wildly this morning," Pigozzi said, his pockets stuffed with cash. "I've never seen it like this before."
John Stibal of Chicago bought T-shirts for his sons, ages 11 and 16.
"They have been following the Blackhawks for a couple of years and they're excited about it," Stibal said. "I told them this hasn't happened in my lifetime so they realize it's a big deal."
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said money for the event was coming from private sponsors, not taxpayers.