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>> Wednesday

Further proof of the demise of the once-proud franchise formerly known as the Chicago Blackhawks.

Some time back, a big deal was made of the fact that on a night when the NHL Blackhawks and minor-league Wolves were playing on the same night, more butts were in the seats to watch the Atlanta Thrashers top prospects than to watch the Hawks.

This season, it could be even worse. Through 15 home games, this season, the Blackhawks are drawing an average of 12,710 fans per game. Their last home contest drew only 11,111 fans. By contrast, the Chicago Fire drew better than that last total at 12 of their 16 home dates this past season. The NHL lockout can't explain all of this, as other franchises have seen their attendances rise since the lockout.

Congratulations, Bill Wirtz. By more or less going out of your way to alienate the few fans you have left, your moves have left your tradition-rich Original Six franchise sitting near the bottom of the NHL in terms of play on the ice (despite a recent stretch of obtaining at least a point in 10 of your last 11 games), and you are now being outdrawn by a soccer team that didn't exist 10 years ago at the box office.

If ESPN re-ran this segment, I imagine the Hawks will not only have held their title, but have warranted consideration towards being elevated to the worst franchise in the history of sports.


Nathan 4:54 PM  

"Through 15 home games, this season, the Blackhawks are drawing an average of 12,710 fans per game. Their last home contest drew only 11,111 fans. By contrast, the Chicago Fire drew better than that last total at 12 of their 16 home dates this past season."

There are SO many things wrong with this, I don't even know where to start. No wait, I'll start by pointing out that you are obviously trying to plug MLS, and pretend that people care about it.
And yet again you are using horribly skewed stats to prove your point, like a true politician.

First off, in case Mike was able to slide this by anyone, note that he says "the Chicago Fire drew better than THAT LAST TOTAL at 12 of their 16 home dates this past season." So first off, you're taking one of their worst totals for your comparision.
You kind of ignored the fact that the Chicago Blackhawks also drew better than that last total at 11 of their 15 home dates thus far.

Secondly, you are completely ignoring the fact that when a team has less games per season, their attendence per game is obviously going to be higher than sports with a higher number of games.

For example: average attendance for an NFL game = 66,453; MLB = 31,423; NFL Europe = 18,965; NBA = 17,558.

So if you want to say how disinterested people are in the Blackhawks, fine. But do not use your skewed, pick-and-choose stats to try to say that people give a shit about MLS.

Mike 6:06 PM  

Fair enough. Believe it or not, it was not my intent to plug MLS in this entry (I do that already elsewhere), but rather to rip the Hawks and their incompetent management that has led them to this decline. When I use MLS numbers in a derisive fashion like I did here, I'm hardly a mouthpiece for the league.

First off, while I agree there is some credence to the relationship between number of contests and attendance, I think the popularity of the sport/team in question has more to do with it than the number of games. The Chicago Machine (Lacrosse) only have 6 home games, and only draw an average of 2,000 fans, but by the "fewer games = more fans" logic, they should be drawing more than the NFL.

Likewise, based on that argument, the Bucks should be drawing fewer fans on average than Marquette, since MU plays less than 1/2 as many home games, but the Bucks average attendance is around 16,000 . MU's is 13,988. But obviously, the reason is that the Bucks cater to and appeal to a larger market than the Warriors. So while fewer games=higher average attendance may be true in some respects, it is far from absolute. In your example, you'd find few people to argue with you that NFL, MLB, and NBA go 1,2,3 in popularity.

And OK, you're right. I should have been more careful with my stats on that last one, but let's even take the argument just based on the average attendance.

Fire 2006 Avg Att: 14,111
Hawks 2006 Avg Att: 12,710

For a team that only 10 years ago was in a position to be the next big thing in Chicago, and was only a few games away from a Stanley Cup final, even the most ardent MLS-hater would have to admit that is quite a tumble.

Vinnie 6:56 PM  

I think any attendance comparison across leagues is pretty futile.

But really, as much as everyone villainizes 'Hawks management, I think the dropoff in popularity is bigger than losing or letting a few popular players walk. I really think the changing demographic of the NHL has way more to do with it than people wanna admit. There's a very strong sentiment in Chicago of, "I'm not gonna watch a bunch of guys with names I can't pronounce skate around and not hit people and play against teams I haven't heard of."

Granted, that perception has far outpaced the reality in my opinion, but I think those changes that form that perception--piled onto higher ticket prices, bad teams, lack of roster continuity--have really sunk the franchise.

The lack of national interest in hockey hurts a ton too. Chicagoans, I think, get off WAY more on that idea of showing up the rest of the country in sports than they do on enjoying the sports themselves. I think that's why the 'Hawks used to be so popular despite the fact that hockey isn't widely played in the area. Now that the country doesn't seem to care much about hockey, that ability to win regional pride is gone, and with it, the interest in the team. Just my opinion.

Vinnie 7:08 PM  

Just to pile onto that last point, I don't think that Chicago sports fans are necessarily the great sports fans that they're cracked up to be. Yes, they're great rah-rah fans due to that tremendous regional pride, but they really lack that mature appreciation for the sports themselves.

Chicagoans are excellent fans of the word "Chicago," their team logos, and themselves. But great sports fans? Not so much. I guess you could say, "Name me a sports city that isn't like that." And that's a good point. But I think Chicago really stands out as far as that attitude is concerned (along with Philly and NY, I'd say).

For God's sake, look how passionate most Chicagoans get bragging about the great skyline and deep-dish pizza and our aggressive driving and all those other cliches we associate with the city. It's annoying. I'm moving to Albuquerque.

Patrick 8:46 AM  

Plus I think people are forgetting the fact that the Hawks may be the hottest team in the NHL ... yes they are 14-14, but they have lost only once under Savvy and are looking very good. If they keep this up, they will make a very deep run into the playoffs. Plus they just signed Peter Bondra, so it shows Wirtz is willing to spend money and wants to win the Cup.

Chicago is not a Cubs or Sox town, not even a Bears town, it is a HAWKS town when they have some good teams. In the seventies, eighties, and especially the nineties, none of those teams could compare to the Hawks.

Mike 11:00 AM  

First of all, this is probably the longest, most in-depth discussion of hockey that YCS has ever had.

Second, a few points, not all of which are contentious.
Chicago is not a Cubs or Sox town, not even a Bears town, it is a HAWKS town when they have some good teams. In the seventies, eighties, and especially the nineties, none of those teams could compare to the Hawks.

It's a Hawks town when they have good teams? NONE of those teams could compare? Regardless of categorizing of towns, which can get pretty pointless real fast (ie: If I had to, I would classify Milwaukee as a football town, despite not having a pro or D-1 college team), it being a Hawks town only when the team is winning doesn't speak well to the loyalty of Hawks fans, or of hockey in the general Chicago sports mindset like what Vinnie said earlier.

Bondra could be a good pickup, especially if it was on the cheap, but I'm not requesting time off work to go to the Stanley Cup tickertape parade down LaSalle Street just yet.

As for your comparison of the Hawks to other Chicago teams during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, I noticed you omitted the Bulls in the late 1980s and 1990s. But that's besides the point.

It's worth noting that while the Hawks were consistently above .500 for most of the 1970s, in the 1980s, the Hawks were at best mediocre. They finished below .500 six times in the Me Decade ('81, '82, '84, '87, '88, '89), and were only 3 games over .500 in 1985. I would say and you would probably agree that the Bears had a slightly better string of results in '85 than the Hawks.

Mike 11:02 AM  

PS: I'm actually digging my Blackhawks jersey from 7th grade out of my closet for the Hawks-Maple Leafs game tomorrow night at the UC. $8 tickets. Hope it still fits.

Vinnie 12:21 PM  

Hawks town? Come on. I think the Bears have almost always been bigger. Even if the 'Hawks were bigger in the original six era, that was, well, a long time ago. Thanks to Jordan and Ditka, I don't think the 'Hawks have been the biggest team in Chicago since, at the latest, the early '80s.

Matt 2:43 PM  

If we're getting down to brass tacks, Milwaukee is a good baseball town when the Brewers are playing well (the 05 season was a good example of this), and opening day is always a massive holiday throughout the city. It's probably less so than in the past, like way back when Spahn, Matthews and Aaron were playing and in the 80s when the crew was doing well, but before the last decade or so, Milwaukee's been a baseball town.

You can't really say any specific town in Wisconsin is a "football town," though, because anywhere you go in this entire state, everyone's a rabid Packers fan. Always. Cities like Chicago, Philly and New York don't even come close to Wisconsin's widespread obsession with the Packers.

Mike 3:49 PM  

I don't think anyone on staff will disagree with that.

However, when I'd use the term "A ________ town" I'm using it to refer to a town where no matter how well the team is doing, where in the collective mindset of the city the team is.

ie) Toronto hasn't won a Stanley Cup in 30 years, but I'd say they're a hockey town because of the place in the local culture the team occupies. Sure the hosers packed the Dome when the Blue Jays were hanging banners, but where are they now? Toronto = Not "A Baseball Town"

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