This post was originally done for the 2010 Convention. All the suggestions still apply for this year. Just ignore the Niemi stuff.
So while I'm putzing around at home, waiting for the Niemi arbitration number to leak on the Tweet-Tweets, I thought I'd post some food for thought/loose guide to enjoying yourself at the 3rd Annual Blackhawks Convention this weekend at the Chicago Hilton. So let's break this down a bit.
Friday is an interesting day. It is very different from the other two days of the convention. The Opening Ceremony is the only major event to happen on Friday night. It starts at 5 PM and don't be fooled into thinking you can just walk up at 5 and get into the ballroom because most people aren't out of work yet. The ballroom will be full around 4:30 at the latest, so get there early if you can. If the ballroom is closed by the time you get there, stake out a spot in front of a tv. Being in the room isn't completely necessary. You'll still be able to see McDonough living out his power trip dream by talking over a crowd like he's the king.
If you can't get there in time to see the Opening Ceremony, you can catch full coverage of it on Comcast Sportsnet. McDonough and the Hawks marketing squad love announcing big news at the Opening Ceremony. The first year it was Toews becoming captain and the retiring of number 3 for Pilote and Magnuson. This year, all signs are pointing to some type of news about Niemi (or another goalie due to the arbitration hearing today).
They usually do a little event after the ceremony (The first year it was a few skits and improv games with some players and Second City Improv actors). That was a good time to get a feel for the players and their personalities.
Saturday is a really long day. Everything opens up at 9 am and the night runs until 7. For those who reserved hotel rooms, the Blackhawks Bash extends the night to 10 pm. Here's a few tips on surviving to the end of the night:
- Show up late. There won't be much worth doing in the morning while most people are still eating breakfast and recovering from the night before. You won't miss much, if anything. Sleep in a bit and get a good breakfast so that you'll have energy at the end of the day.
- Avoid the autographs and pictures. If you reallllllllllly want an autograph or a picture from one or two players, then make sure you set aside lots of time to wait in line for it. In my opinion, you'll miss some really great informational panels waiting to see players. The Cup should be a worthwhile wait, but the autograph systems have been a nightmare in recent years. Save yourself the stress.
- Lunch. Again, you'll need energy. Connie's Pizza has a booth, but don't be afraid to venture out of the hotel to grab some food. Head west to Wabash or State and grab a bite for a better value than inside.
- Panels/Sessions. Check out as many panels as possible. Get your schedule when you get to the hotel, and talk about which panels sound particularly interesting to you. Some of the best that I remember weren't the most popular ones. Listening to Kane, Toews, Bobby Hull, and Stan Mikita sit around and talk about being young hockey players wasn't all that great, but it was really crowded. My favorite was with Seabrook and an NHLPA rep talking about labor issues and Olympic participation. Okay, I'm a bit of a nerd. Just don't be afraid to go off the grid with your picks.
- Relax and enjoy yourself. Around 5 or 6 pm, everyone will be getting hungry, your feet will hurt, you'll feel tired and crabby. At that moment, realize that you just have to take a deep breath and relax. Don't let your day devolve into bickering with the people you came with.
Sunday will be a short day, but you'll probably still be feeling the effects of Saturday. Again, I'd reccomend panels. Also, the lines will likely be shorter for autographs and pictures because people tend to drop like flies by Sunday.
Don't forget to check out some of the auctions throughout the weekend and take in all the sights. You might be able to catch some Hawks brass in the hallways. Bring a sharpie and get your pass signed. I was lucky enough to have a great 5 minute conversation with John Wideman about the work that goes into a broadcast. These are the moments I look for in the convention.
In summary, avoid the meatball fans and memorabilia collectors looking for autographs. Get as much out of the weekend as possible. If you see me, don't be afraid to give a shout.