The kids playing for the St. Jude Hockey Club at Southwest Ice Arena in the Chicago suburb of Crestwood, Ill., got a heck of a treat earlier this week. Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane, along with Gatorade, surprised the players with a remodeled locker room at the arena.
Though the players were first surprised to see the new locker room all repainted with the club's logos and motivational sayings on the wall, they may have been even more excited when Kane walked in to greet them.
“Hey guys, I'm Patrick Kane,” he said, rather comically to the awestruck players. I think they knew who he was.
The new locker room and the visit clearly meant a lot to the boys and girls in attendance.
“This is amazing. This is the best thing I've seen in my life,” 13-year-old Danny Reardon told the Southtown Star. “I couldn't think of anything because my brain flatlined.”
It's quite the transformation at the arena, which was also the home rink of a young Chris Chelios when he was coming up through the youth hockey ranks in Chicago. That's how you know it's an old barn.
And as the rink at which a certain Eye on Hockey writer played the bulk of his JV games in high school, CBSSports.com can confirm this remodeling job has been a long time coming. So this is a necessary transformation and a very nice gesture to give these kids a dressing room they can be proud of.
Southwest Ice Arena has been serving its community for decades and is enjoying a resurgence thanks to the popularity of the Blackhawks.
Youth hockey has been booming overall in Chicago since the Blackhawks' two Stanley Cup titles over the last five years. Areas like Crestwood, which is located just southwest of the city, are seeing more players go through their doors than ever before.
In fact, USA Hockey membership in the state of Illinois has ballooned from just over 21,000 registered players in 2008-09 to nearly 30,000 in 2013-14, representing 36.6 percent growth in playing membership over that span which far outpaces national averages.