CHICAGO -- Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell played baseball growing up, but his swing didn't look as sharp as his slap shot Friday morning as he and a group of teammates took batting practice at Wrigley Field.
"I played baseball until I was 16, and it's true -- if you don't use it, you lose it," Bickell said. "The swing wasn't there, but I had fun with the guys."
Michal Handzus, Sheldon Brookbank, Patrick Sharp and Bickell each took swings before the Cubs opened a three-game series with the Marlins. Bickell hit a ball off the wall and Sharp was able to get a couple to the warning track, but he couldn't replicate the home run he said he hit at U.S. Cellular Field.
"The wind must be blowing in because I didn't get one out," Sharp said. "You've got to have some respect for these guys. It looks like they're just swinging a bat, but I can only imagine a real pitcher throwing it 95 mph with movement and all that stuff."
Sharp and the Blackhawks saw their season end last week with a Game 7 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings. Despite the setback, the players said they were thankful for the support of the city and fans.
"A lot of fans that I've been seeing on the streets and stuff like that, they're still proud," Bickell said. "To come back [from down] 3-1 and force a Game 7 and have an OT, we had everyone on the edge of their chairs. We fell short, and we're just going to be hungrier next year."
Cubs manager Rick Renteria said he hopes the Cubs can eventually join the Blackhawks in having sustained success and competing for championships.
"Absolutely," Renteria said. "I think the process of turning anything around may seem daunting, but you keep chipping away. It would be great for the Cubs to be a part of that championship landscape."
Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.