BOLINGBROOK – Thousands of cup-crazed Chicago Blackhawks fans waited hours for an opportunity to strike a pose and snap a photo with Lord Stanley's hardware – which was on display from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday at the Bolingbrook Golf Club.
About 3,500 people attended Thursday afternoon's Stanley Cup showcase, according to Bolingbrook Golf Club General Manager Randy Farber, who said that people lined up as early as 4 a.m. to secure a spot in line.
"When I got here at 5 a.m. to open the golf course, there were almost 100 people waiting outside – setting up folding chairs and sleeping on the pavement," Farber said.
The crowd grew exponentially. By 9 a.m., the line had snaked out the front door, past the driving range and weaving throughout the parking lot.
Inevitably, luck favored those who arrived early, and the line was cut off a little before 2 p.m. The remaining couple thousand watched from afar as the Stanley Cup was paraded on a golf cart following the event.
But, for those lucky enough to get a picture with the Cup, the experience was described as a "once in a lifetime" event.
Plainfield resident Mark Letcher was the first person in line Thursday, and explained the secret to his early arrival was simple: don't sleep. The part owner and manager of Chelios Pub and Grill in Aurora and Geneva, Letcher finished his night shift, grabbed a cup of coffee, then headed to the golf course, where he saved a spot for his wife and three children.
Eight hours later, Letcher had no regrets.
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity," Letcher said. "We are so thankful for everyone who helped make this happen."
Following Letcher in line was 17-year-old Naperville resident Paige Gemein, who arrived with 15 cousins and friends at 5 a.m. The soon-to-be Waubonsie Valley High School Valley senior echoed Letcher's plan of attack, deciding to forgo a good night's sleep for an opportunity to hug the Stanley Cup.
"This will be a memory I cherish forever, I am so excited," Gemein said. "This is the Stanley Cup, you got to get here early."
Chicago Blackhawks Senior Director of Team Services Tony Ommen – a Bolingbrook resident – hosted the event, celebrating part of his day with the Stanley Cup by sharing it with the community.
The Cup was displayed on the Reagan Grand Ballroom stage and a professional photographer took photos for $20. All of the generated proceeds will go to local charities St. Baldrick's and Heart Haven Outreach (H2O).
Ommen, who just completed his 14th year with the Blackhawks organization, brought the Cup to the Bolingbrook Golf Club in 2010 after the team won its first championship in 49 years.
"It's great to see everyone here in good spirits," Ommen said. "From Mayor Claar, to the police and fire departments and the thousands of residents, it was an amazing turnout and I am so happy we can come together, celebrate with the Stanley Cup and raise money for two great causes."