It’s been about 25 years or so since I last attended a Chicago Blackhawks game. This was back when I was just a kid and they, along with the Bulls, played at Chicago Stadium, a decade or more before the building of The United Center on the west side of Chicago. In the mean time I went to a couple of Chicago Wolves games but, because of the lack of TV coverage of the Hawks (Owner Bill Wirtz always said he thought broadcasting home games on TV would eat into ticket sales. Yeah, I know.) I didn’t have a lot of interest. As I’ve mentioned before, acting like I didn’t even know what “hockey” was has become one of my favorite recurring jokes. Cause I crack myself up like that.
But this past Sunday night I, along with my dad and younger brother, went to a Hawks game and thought it was a great time. It helped that they won the game against the Calgary Flames, but even just watching and getting caught up in the crowd’s enthusisasm made it a great time.
The Hawks have undergone a serious resurgence in Chicago this season, largely because, following the elder Wirtz’s death, the team is now owned by his son Rocky. Rocky wisely poached John McDonough from the Chicago Cubs organization to run promotions and publicity for the team. Between the two of them it’s like night and day. The town has embraced the team, based largely on its outreach to not only the population at large but also to long-time fans, who have been re-energized by the younger Wirtz’s decision to actually embrace the team’s history and bring back some of the most beloved players from the past to act as brand ambassadors.
What struck me as I walked around the United Center and looked out over the almost full stadium was that these are not casual fans. At most sporting events I’ve been to the percentage of people wearing team uniforms – not just hats but jerseys – is usually between 25 and 50. But here is was easily in the 75 percent range. Almost everyone was decked out in jerseys either with the name of their favorite player or their own name. There was even someone sporting a “Griswold 00” jersey, which had all three of us gaping in admiration.
All in all I’ve got a new respect for the Blackhawks.
Oh one more thing: At least twice as I was walking around the concourse I overheard people talking about HockeyFights.com, run by David Singer. You can view the Jan. 4th fight card here. So good on Vodkafish for the brand recognition he has going for him.