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‘Wow, what a place’: Blackhawks officially open new practice facility

Patrick Sharp fires a one-timer at the end of Blackhawks practice Thursday at the new MB Ice Arena.

With plenty of elbow room inside the massive dressing room at MB Ice Arena — a near carbon copy, only larger, of the one at the United Center — Brent Seabrook marveled at how far the Blackhawks have come since the dark days of the late 2000s, practicing at The Edge in Bensenville.

“I think the trainers are pretty excited they’ve got a whole bunch more space,” Seabrook said. “But they’re going to be pissed off once they realize nobody’s going to be leaving. We’ll be here all day.”

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After years of dealing with cramped quarters at the Edge and Johnny’s IceHouse West, and after two months of dress-and-drives — hockey players shuffling on and off a bus in full gear and flip-flops — the Hawks officially opened their new practice facility Thursday at the old Malcolm X College site, just a couple blocks south of the United Center.

The rink houses a lot more than just two sheets of ice. There’s a massive second-floor complex that’s a hockey wonderland for players — a massive gym, spacious athletic training rooms, and target-shooting stations that deliver pucks for one-timers. No more massage tables wedged diagonally in a broom closet, no more folding chairs in the middle of the locker room for extra players, no more days of skating in one building and working out in another.

“A lot of gadgets, a lot of little things you can do, a weight room, [strength coach Paul Goodman’s] room up there is spectacular,” Joel Quenneville said. “A lot of options, a track, a shooting machine, all kinds of different ways to train and work out. … Wow, what a place.”

Said Patrick Kane: “It’s a pretty special place. It’s one thing to talk about it and have the ideas, but to actually put it through and get it done — [owner Rocky Wirtz] and [president John McDonough] and the whole front office deserve an amazing pat on the back.”

The rink also will be used as a hub for youth hockey, recreational leagues and high-school teams. But for the Hawks’ purposes, the $65 million price tag puts an even greater emphasis on winning.

“There’s no excuses — if there ever was, there sure isn’t anymore,” Jonathan Toews said. “That pressure to win is always there. This is just another great example of what Rocky and John and [general manager Stan Bowman] and everyone are trying to do. They want the best for their players and the best result on the ice. They sure spoil us. All our needs are taken care of and we’re as prepared as possible when we get on the ice.”

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

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