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Fans get another chance to celebrate

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CHICAGO – While general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville already are looking ahead to next season, Blackhawks fans got another chance to celebrate the team’s Stanley Cup title.

During the second day of the annual Blackhawks Fans Convention on Saturday, one of the most popular sessions was a recap of last season’s record-breaking start that had close to 1,000 fans and featured Quenneville, forward Bryan Bickell and Conn Smythe winner Patrick Kane.

The Hawks set an NHL record for best start to a season without a loss in regulation, going 21-0-3 before their first loss in the 25th game of the 48-game lockout-shortened regular season.

“I don’t think anyone envisioned we’d have a streak like that starting the season,” Kane said. “People started talked about us and it kind of got the team jacked up and fired up to actually do something special and create history.”

Added Bickell: “It was an epic start and we were just happy to be part of it.”

The Hawks started with 10 of their first 12 games on the road.

“We knew it was important to start off hot,” Kane said. “As the streak went on, we just tried to embrace every game. We wanted to enjoy it and keep winning. That’s what we said before every game, to try to keep this thing going and extend it more and more games. ... Throughout those 24 games, it was a [heck] of a ride.”

The tone for the championship season was set in the season opener at Los Angeles, when the Kings lifted the banner for winning the Stanley Cup in the previous season.

“It certainly was a great way to begin any season,” Quenneville said of spoiling the Kings’ ceremonies with a 5-2 win. “Getting off on that first road trip on a real positive note put us in a great way.

“When you look back over the beginning of the season, every guy was playing well. As a coach, you couldn’t ask for a better set of circumstances. Everything seemed to work.”

The Hawks lost their first game in regulation in Game 25, falling 6-2 at Colorado.

“After that first loss at Colorado, I told the guys it was amazing and remarkable what we did in the first half of the season, we should be proud of what we accomplished and move forward,” Quenneville said.

On a personal note, Bickell was asked about his pending marriage next week.

“Planning a wedding in Europe (he played overseas during the NHL lockout and couldn’t help his fiancee with wedding plans) was tough, we didn’t have phones, we only used emails,” he said. “Even during the playoff crunch, she’d be like, ‘Hey, can you help me?’ I said, ‘No, I’ve got to concentrate.’

“Right after hockey was over, she was right there waiting for me to say, ‘OK, let’s go into wedding mode.’ I’ve got a week left so I’m going to fight through it.”

During another session, Bowman said keeping Kane and team captain Jonathan Toews is “priority No. 1. If you look back, those are the two guys that put us back on the map. They’re incredible players ... are still young and, believe it or not, really haven’t hit the prime of their career yet. We’re going to make sure they’re Blackhawks for a long, long time.”

The three-day convention ends Sunday.

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