CHICAGO | One by one they pushed through the turnstiles, took a rally towel and, in many cases, used it to dry off from the rain.
Fifteen minutes before the puck dropped, the stands held only a smattering of people as Blackhawks fans eased through backed-up traffic around the United Center and dodged raindrops on their way into the building for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Nearly 20,000 held tickets, paying up to $250 for standing-room-only spots and thousands to sit a few rows off the ice.
It's been 34 years since two Original Six teams met in the Stanley Cup Final, which upped the attention on this year's championship round.
For Claudia Pearson, of Highland, and her husband, Wally, it was a long season coming. The diehard fans waited through long losing seasons, then this year's delayed start, but were in the arena Wednesday night.
"We've had season tickets since the place was half full," Pearson said.
Now Claudia hopes the team's depth helps Chicago finish this season as well as it started.
"The Hawks have plenty of talent and speed," she said."They have four lines that can score."
Al Murawski, of Chesterton, began splitting season ticket packages with some friends a few seasons before the Blackhawks won in 2010. He and his family have kept it up since then, and have had a pair of tickets to most playoff games.
On Wednesday they had seats in a suite, and were able to bring the entire family.
"I've always been a Blackhawks fan, but really when Rocky Wirtz put it all back together, it turned the franchise around," Murawski said. "We really got into it when my son played hockey for Portage. That's when my wife started following it, too."
Murawski's daughter, Kate, said she was glad to be in the Madhouse rather than at home, risking bad weather knocking out the television signal.
"It is Stanley Cup, Game 1. Can you imagine being home watching this game and the cable goes out?" Kate said. "I wouldn't even want to be in the same house as my dad."