SUN Hockey Pool

Hawks and fans reUnited

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:24 AM ET

CHICAGO -- Once in a while during his two seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, Adrian Aucoin heard the roar.

Every so often, usually if Sidney Crosby was in town or Detroit visited, the cavernous United Center would be full.

It meant a lively building, unlike so many nights when 8,000 or 9,000 warm bodies would populate the structure that holds more than 20,000.

It meant a deafening national anthem, when the patrons cheered and clapped from start to finish during the Star Spangled Banner, rising to a crescendo and drowning out the final lines.

"I don't care who you are, it motivates you," Aucoin said. "Whether you're the home team or the visiting team, it's an impressive place to play."

Unfortunately, those days were too few and too far between during Aucoin's stint in Chicago.

Now, the Blackhawks faithful are returning. They're bringing back the roar, and Aucoin is excited to hear the team he will face this afternoon is again climbing out of the depths in the Windy City's sporting landscape.

"I don't cheer for any other team, but I think it's great for the league when they're doing well," said the Flames defenceman, who happens to be part of the joint marketing/broadcasting committee involving the league and players.

"I'm always hoping teams like Chicago do well."

For too long, the Hawks haven't been competitive. They've made the playoffs only once in the last nine seasons. And it'll take a miracle for them to reach the post-season this time around.

But, unlike so many other false starts, it appears the Hawks are on the right track, building a team with a plethora of talented youngsters.

Even if a trip to the playoffs isn't in the offing this spring, the crowds are returning, with seven sellouts this season, and another expected today.

It's what die-hards said it could be like if the Blackhawks would just turn the corner.

"I think that was kind of the problem the last few years. Everybody kept saying that, but it didn't happen," Aucoin said. "You expect it to happen, but there a few guys who realized the only way to get them back was by winning. It's not by signing guys, not by marketing. There's is such a passionate fan base that knows the game well, and they'll only come back when the team's winning. That's what the team's starting to do this year."

The results are in big part due to the young talent on the roster, especially the additions of Patrick Kane and particularly Jonathan Toews, who Jim Vandermeer believes is destined for stardom.

"He wants to get better every day and it shows in his work ethic, working out and practising. He's going to be a star," said Vandermeer, who spent parts of four seasons in Chicago.

"He's one of those guys that really pays attention, wants to learn. For a young guy, he's not satisfied just to be there, he wants to be an elite guy and that's what a leader is. For a young guy to display those qualities right off the bat is a big deal."


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