United Center workers were literally rolling out the red carpet during Tuesday's morning skate, preparing for tonight's home-opener festivities. Gates open at 4:30 p.m. for the annual red-carpet ceremony, which will take place in the 100-level to avoid the sub-zero temperatures.
Even with a big game tonight against the Blues -- co-favorites with the Blackhawks in the Central Division, if not the entire Western Conference -- the players welcomed the event.
"I think it's good," defenseman Duncan Keith said. "I think it's nice for the fans. Obviously, we haven't seen them in a while, and it's going to be nice to see them again. Any way to kind of get to know our fans a little better is always important, to meet the people that are behind [us] game in and game out."
Even Hawks coach Joel Quenneville was OK with the pregame distraction.
"A little hoopla never hurts ya," he said.
Tonight's game will be the 191st consecutive sellout for the Hawks, a fact not lost on the team.
"That just shows the passion they have for the Blackhawks and the game of hockey," Keith said. "It's an Original Six team, and there's a lot of passionate Blackhawks fans all over the continent and especially here in Chicago."
Said Quenneville: "We're fortunate, it' s a great place to play. When you hear that anthem, you're excited about just starting the games. We feel that it's a special place. As a visiting team or visiting player, it was like, 'Jeez, those guys got it over there.' So we're happy to be where we're at. We're lucky and fortunate in a lot of ways. Let's take advantage of the enthusiasm with the crowd and knowing it is a special place to play."