Monday, Feb. 2, 2009 | 3:12 p.m.
Beyond the Sun
Monday morning at the Orleans Arena was business as usual as the Las Vegas Wranglers and Bakersfield Condors prepared for tonight's game – until the Chicago Blackhawks strolled in to practice.
Yes, those Chicago Blackhawks, one of the NHL's "Original Six" franchises and the current fourth-place team in the Western Conference with a 27-13-8 record.
Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville decided to break up the grind of an eight-game road trip with a short Vegas vacation for his players.
"It's just a fun place to be and nice to be together as a team watching the Super Bowl and getting a break," Quenneville said. "It's a nice little change and I think the whole trip went well."
After dropping the San Jose Sharks 4-2 on Saturday night, the Blackhawks headed to the Bellagio for their hockey retreat.
The team watched the Super Bowl together on Sunday then practiced at the Orleans Arena Monday prior to boarding a flight to Edmonton for a showdown with the Oilers on Tuesday night.
"It's been amazing," said Blackhawks' left-winger Kris Versteeg, who has 14 goals and 24 assists in 45 games this season. "We've had some team bonding. Just to get out here with all the guys and have a good time. It was pretty cool."
Chicago skated for about 45 minutes at the Orleans Arena while many Wranglers and Condors players admired from the stands.
Even though the Wranglers' humble ECHL abode is no United Center, the Blackhawks said they felt right at home.
"This is really a great building," Quenneville said. "It's been perfect. We had a great set up and I think that helped lead to a good practice, too."
True to its namesake, The Orleans gives visitors a year-round Mardi Gras feeling with a New Orleans French Quarter environment.
Located just a short way from the center of gambling on the Strip, The Orleans offers a collection of attractions that helps to draw in a mix of locals and visitors.
In addition to the 1,885 hotel rooms and 134,000-square foot casino, the property has a 70-lane bowling center, an 18-screen movie theater, an 850-seat showroom and a 9,500-seat arena, home to the Las Vegas Wranglers hockey team.
The hotel also has 14 dining options, including Canal Street, The Prime Rib Loft, Koji Sushi Bar & China Bistro and Big Al’s Oyster Bar.
Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected].