The first day of the last three Blackhawks training camps in South Bend all had one thing in common: the crowds, the big lines and huge enthusiasm from the fans.
This year? Well, it would not be too farfetched to say you could hear a pin drop at Johnny's Icehouse West on Friday.
Unlike the thousands of people who filled the Compton Family Ice Arena from 2013-15, only about two dozen took action this year. The fact that most of the big names are not here to Hawks like to participate in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto is the likely reason.
The Hawks held two practices and also managed the brawl, which was divided into two 25-minute halves. Quality of hockey was about what you'd expect when the top line were Andrew Desjardins-Dennis Rasmussen-Ryan Hartman on one side and Tyler Motte-Nick Schmaltz-Richard panic on the other side.
Assistant coach Mike Kitchen said the reason why some players who were present can be a drag.
"Yesterday they had their fitness and medical testing, so it was a long, drawn- (out) a day for them and it's quite exhausting," said Kitchen. "The pace was fine today. We expect it will be even better tomorrow."
Two players who stood out were forward Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Alexandre Fortin.
Fortin, who also appeared during prospects camp in July, scored twice in his team's 4-1 victory. 19-year-old native of Quebec continues to dazzle the top-end speed, and he also displays excellent vision and awareness on the ice.
"He had a good day today," said Kitchen. "He has some speed, has good stick. So we will keep a close watch on him."
Labrie, who was on the team Fortin and scored the first goal, played the last two seasons in Rockford, scoring 28 goals in 126 games.
World Cup arrivals:
With the USA, Finland and the Czech Republic all eliminated from the World Cup, it is natural to ask when Patrick Kane and defenders Ville Pokka and Michal Kempný arrive at the camp.
Assistant coach Mike Kitchen more than hinted that it will in the next few days.
"Well, you know, we just give them some time off," said Kitchen. "I'll just come out and play by ear (s) is. We'll see, because he is from September 1, and even before that."
The first 10,000 fans to enter the United Center for the sold-out fan festival Blackhawks' Saturday will receive a bobblehead Brent Seabrook. Gates open at 9 am
He said this:
"After so long in years I felt like I was retired. Definitely different and strange in the summer."