Thanks to Mrenz22 for posting this. Pretty thorough examination of what it's like to be down there. We'll never know.
I went into my second Blackhawks Convention one year older and MUCH wiser about how to make the most of my weekend.
I didn’t attend on Friday last year, but since my family and I were going to stay at the hotel this time we came down to the Hilton on Day One. Traffic was pretty rough so we decided to forego the Opening Ceremonies and get settled. After checking into the hotel I headed down to Registration. There I got a snazzy red backpack filled with all kinds of goodies and my Instant Winner VIP Autograph Session for Saturday afternoon (if you stay at the hotel two nights you get an Instant Winner automatically). In addition, one of my two scratch offs was a winner and I got another VIP session for Saturday morning. The weekend was off to a great start!
My dad and I studied the program guide and decided on a plan of attack for the evening. I wanted to have my picture taken with Nick Leddy and he opted for the Corey Crawford signing since we had missed out on Crawford last year. It was around 4:30pm and wristbands were being given out at 5pm. I think that was the shortest amount of time I waited for anything all weekend! After we had both secured our wristbands we walked around the vendor area and picked up some puck holders. We ventured up to the International Ballroom and caught the tail end of the Opening Ceremonies. It was packed up there! Despite moving the festivities to a bigger ballroom this year there wasn’t nearly enough room for everyone. It was festival seating so everyone was just kind of standing in a big clump. I was able to see all the guys on the big screen, though. Since we had about two hours to kill before the signing and photo sessions we grabbed something to eat and studied the program guide some more. We were trying to guess who our VIP autographs might be. (The program guide lists all the possibilities for the Instant Winners and the Scratch and Win winners.) By process of elimination we figured our Instant Winner was Duncan Keith (if you look at the panel listings you can figure out who is where at what time and Dunc was the only one free that afternoon). It was harder to guess the Scratch and Win one, though, because there were eleven possibilities.
Around 7pm we got in line for Crawford and Leddy. Leddy was early for his session so the line moved pretty fast. The biggest hold up was that the camera needed time to reload between each picture so you had to wait. When it was my turn I shook his hand and he asked me how I was and what time I had arrived at the convention. After the picture was taken we exchanged nice to meet yous. They print the pictures on site so I was able to pick mine up right away. Leddy is such a nice guy and I was glad to be able to meet him again.
By that time my dad was near the front of the Crawford line so I headed up to grab a seat at Second City. Along with the cast, Kane, Carcillo, Shaw, and Stalberg were performing. The show lasted about an hour and was hilarious. The guys all have such great chemistry with each other. It was a lot of fun. I met up with my dad after the show and he got Crawford’s autograph on a puck and on a birthday card I was carrying around all weekend for a good friend of mine. He also managed to catch Marcus Kruger leaving his autograph session and got him to sign the card as well.
Day Two started early. My dad and I hopped in the line to get in line for wristbands around 6:30am and there were probably about 100 people in front of us. (In order to get decent access to the autograph sessions you have to get in that line so that when they let you in the autograph area to get wristbands you are one of the first people in. They only hand out 315 autograph wristbands per session and 150 photo wristbands per session. So basically you wait in line twice, but there’s really no way around it.) Despite the long wait in line (we got into the autograph area around 8am) the time passed quickly. There are always plenty of fans who want to chat. I was sitting with someone who had never been to the convention before so I did my best to help him plan out the best strategy for his day. When the doors opened at 8am my dad and I headed for Brandon Bollig’s line. They weren’t supposed to hand out wristbands until 8:30am, but as soon as you got in they gave you the band. Bollig arrived around 9:30am. He signed a puck for me and the birthday card as well. Technically each player is only supposed to sign one thing and not pose for pictures, but Bollig didn’t seem too fussed and signed both items and posed for a picture with me. He was really sweet and chatted with me while he signed.
When that was over it was after 10am. My dad got Bill White’s autograph and then headed up to our Scratch and Win session and I went to The Olympic Ideal Panel. The panel featured: Toews, Kane, Seabrook, Keith, Hossa, O'Callahan, and Olczyk. Pat Foley was the moderator. It was a really interesting and fun panel. The fans were able to ask questions too, which is always entertaining. I think the highlights were the girl who rewrote Call Me, Maybe, which was really a request for Toews to sign her jersey (which he did) and the person who asked Toews if he was related to Joey, The Jr. Reporter (he’s not). I met up with my dad after and found out his pass was for Coach Q. While Q was trying to sign the puck his sharpie didn’t work and he tried a different one and wrote over the first autograph. He didn’t like how that looked so he signed the other side of the puck as well. We headed back down to the autograph area and I got in the line to get a wristband for Ben Smith while my dad met Eric Nesterenko and Ab McDonald. After I got my wristband the person directing traffic sent people to the wrong line so the order kind of got mixed up and I ended up in the front of the Smith line. Lol Lucky for me, I guess. Smith was really nice, kind of quiet. He signed a puck and the birthday card. His ‘handler’ (person who sits with the player while he signs) was a little stricter so I didn’t get to take a picture.
I was interested in getting Andrew Shaw’s autograph at 5:30pm and I knew they were handing out wristbands at 4:00pm, but through chatter I heard the line was already getting pretty long (it was around 1:45pm at this point). I caught up with my dad who had gotten Sheldon Brookbank’s autograph in the meantime. He said he’d wait in the Shaw line for me while I went up to the Instant Winner session then we’d trade places. That session started at 2:30pm and when I got up there the line was already pretty long. Just as we started to move my dad called to tell me they were going to hand out the Shaw wristbands early. I couldn’t get out of the line I was in so he just got the wristband instead. My Instant Winner was Duncan Keith. His handler was pretty strict too so I only got my puck signed. I didn’t mind, though, because just meeting him was great. He shook my hand and was just really sweet. A super nice guy.
When I left that session my dad gave me the Shaw wristband (a big no-no as you’re not supposed to trade wristbands, but it’s not like we sold it or anything so I didn’t feel too bad about it). It was around 3:30pm at this point so my dad went to get Dennis Hull and Cliff Koroll’s autographs. I decided to check out the WGN broadcast and heard interviews with Coach Q, Sharp/Seabrook, and then Kane/Carcillo. That was a lot of fun to listen to and seeing the guys interact with each other is just great. By then I decided to get in the Shaw line so I wouldn’t be near the end of it. I cannot say enough nice things about Andrew Shaw. He was so genuinely sweet and you could tell how happy he was to be there and just be a part of the organization. I wished him a happy belated birthday and we chatted while he signed my puck and the birthday card. He was nice enough to take a picture with me too. Just such a great guy.
Day Three started even earlier than Day Two. Seabrook, Stalberg, and Carcillo were all signing that morning so the line was even longer than before. Since we had met Stalberg the year before I decided to get in the Seabrook line (well, technically I had met Seabrook before, but he’s one of my favorite players and I couldn’t resist) and my dad headed for Carcillo. While in the Seabrook line I was chatting with a very nice family behind me and we heard rumblings that there were some unclaimed Scratch and Win passes being given out at the Registration booth. The sessions for that morning were Hossa and Toews. By the time I got to the booth they had handed them all out. I was bummed, but it was such an off chance that I couldn’t really be too upset. I got back in line and about twenty minutes later someone said they were handing out passes again. Some people even had two and three passes to both sessions. I went to the booth and the girl said she didn’t have any left, but you could see she still had a stack behind the counter. Yelling at people doesn’t make you any friends so I just waited quietly in case they handed them out again. Finally at 10:30am (that’s when the signing started) I figured it wasn’t going to happen. While I was leaving a woman came up to me and asked if I wanted her pass to meet Hossa. I was thrilled and couldn’t thank her enough. By that time my dad had met Carcillo (another signature on the card!) so I gave him the Hossa pass since I had met him before at the Blackhawks Live dinner. He got a puck and the birthday card signed. He said Hossa looked great and said he was ready to get back on the ice. By the time that was all over with it was time to meet Seabrook. Despite all my running around that morning I still had a good place in line because the very nice man sitting behind me held my place. Blackhawks fans are the best people! Right before I went up there the handler told me he’d only sign one thing. Seabrook signed a picture for me and I asked about the card and he had no problem doing it. He was really nice and shook my hand. My new friends in line took pictures for me during the signing since he couldn’t pose. I was most appreciative. Seabrook tends to get a bad rap from some fans, but on the occasions that I’ve met him he’s never been anything but nice.
Once I was done with that I caught up with my dad who was in the Nesterenko, McDonald, Pilote line. I did a little shopping (got some new pins for my lanyard) and wandered around the interactive area. I chatted with a nice woman who shared various Blackhawks pictures and stories with me including the fact she was staying on the same floor as Pilote and had breakfast with him! By then it was time to head home.
Just a few observations I made. There was at least double the amount of photo sessions this year. I think the sessions are awesome and the fact you get the picture instantly is great. The wristband system is wonderful. It’s a pain to wait, but at least you know you’re guaranteed an autograph. What’s not great is when people in front of hold places for twelve of their friends. It didn’t directly affect me, but I don’t think it’s right. If you want the autographs badly enough you should have to wait like everyone else. I also didn’t like the way the surprise VIP passes were handed out on Sunday. It was obvious they had extra passes even when they said they didn’t. It should have been an all or nothing thing. Finally, I saw people trying to sell their VIP passes. That’s just not right. I don’t think it’s wrong to trade passes, but money shouldn’t be exchanged. It was nice to see someone trying to sell his Hossa pass get it taken away from him. It just takes a few bad apples to spoil things for everyone else. Overall it was a WONDERFUL experience. The Blackhawks organization puts on an amazing weekend for us fans. And yay I ended up with eight signatures on the birthday card (double what I accomplished last year). I’m already planning next year’s strategy and now more than ever I’m ready for hockey season!