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Bob Verdi: Long, happy night for Blackhawks and Cup

At 1:57 Thursday morning, about three hours after these Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, John Madden hoisted the silver jug above his head and walked it out of a visitors' locker room ripe with the aroma of champagne and smoke. The merriment had lasted almost as long as the game, so it was time to head to Chicago, where the party would have no expiration date. Besides, the new champions who had dug so deep since October for whatever it took had run out of cigars.

One by one, players who had nothing to do with the 49-year itch but embraced with such passion the organization's fiat to scratch it, threaded their way through corridors of the otherwise deserted Wachovia Center, toward the team bus, all eyes on Stanley. There was a seat waiting for this venerable trophy on the charter flight, 10D, right by the card table, and before wheels were up at about 3 a.m., Chicago's boys of winter made sure this most welcome passenger was secure, its seatbelt fastened tightly.

"HOW ABOUT THITH?" exclaimed Duncan Keith, the great young defenseman, dentally-challenged. "IS THITH THOMETHING OR WHAT?"

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