This past Sunday I had the pleasure of watching our beloved Chicago Blackhawks soundly defeat the San Jose Sharks 5-2 from the 300’s at the Madhouse on Madison. After the final rendition of Chelsea Dagger was played, I headed to a River North venue to catch another one of Chi-Town’s teams, the Chicago Bears, take on their rival the Green Bay Packers in what many were hoping would be a game of redemption after the Bears’ disastrous first encounter with the Pack this season.
To be polite, things didn’t turn out so well for the Bears, and their fans’ disillusionment was palpable to the point where the proprietors of the establishment broadcasting the contest didn’t even bother to put the game’s audio back on at the start of the second half. Beyond crest fallen, Mike Curcio, a fellow FanSided staff writer for Bear Googles On, put an arm around my shoulders and said “at the least we have the Blackhawks.”
The sentiment of such a statement and the juxtaposition of two Chicago sports franchises’ fortunes in a single evening had a potent resonance that got me thinking…
First off, unfortunately, as we know the Chicago Bears having a disappointing season is nothing new. However, this season, one that started with somewhat rationally high hopes, the franchise has set records (literally) in humiliation. This Bears’ season has not been just a disappointment, but an outright abomination, and Bears fans are more than discouraged; they’re so disenfranchised that Chicago publications and radio personalities alike are calling for a first quarter boycott of the Bears’ game this Sunday in the same vein as Cleveland Browns fans did to protest their team being moved to Baltimore in 1995.
So what does this mean for the Blackhawks? With the Bears’ currently writing perhaps the darkest chapter of their franchise’s history, disillusioned Chicago denizens will be looking elsewhere for teams to bring their city glory and resurrect their morale. Both beacons of such hope reside at the United Center, and while the Chicago Bulls have been a promising squad for several years, it’s the Chicago Blackhawks that have proven they are a championship-caliber team.
It’s under this promise that many Bears fans will likely be taking refuge after experiencing such disgust with their number one Chicago team, and I have to suspect that this fact is not lost on someone with the business acumen of Chicago Blackhawks’ owner, Rocky Wirtz.
While I’m no economist or sociologist, it’s safe to say that with the Bears season all but over before Thanksgiving the Blackhawks stand to gain a sizable chunk of the Chicagoland sports market. Obviously few Chicago denizens are one-team fans, but with the Bears season caput, Bears fans that had set aside time and energy to root for the Monsters of Midway will perhaps now be allocating their devotion towards the Hawks.
Why the Hawks? Well, with the Bears’ playoff hopes dashed so early and in such an embarrassing way, and the Bulls still unproven, the Blackhawks have now become Chicago’s flagship for the 2014-2015 sports season. This means there are now many eyes on the Hawks, believe it or not.
So what will this translate into on the ice? The short answer: nothing.
However, you have to think that someone like Rocky Wirtz fully appreciates the potential business opportunity the Bears’ implosion presents his franchise. Again, Chicagoans rarely root for just one of their city’s team, but with the Bears’ having left such a bad taste in every Windy City mouth, if the Hawks can start stringing together consistent success, think of the opportunity for converting moderately devoted Blackhawks fans into deeply devoted Blackhawks fans?
The question is, why should anyone except the Blackhawks brass care about this market opportunity? Two words: more accountability. If Rocky appreciates that he’s got a great chance to significantly add to his franchise’s legions of fans in the wake of the Bears’ collapse, he’ll send the marching order down the Blackhawks totem pole that subpar play will be even more unacceptable than at present.
We know the Blackhawks have the talent to go far, but there has still been lingering doubts about some of the personnel decisions management has made (Coach Joel Quenneville I’m looking in your direction) over the years.
Best case scenario; with more eyes on the Blackhawks, Coach Q will be called to the carpet more often regarding his coaching decisions, which hopefully translate into the line blender grinding slower (or even to a halt) and young, developing Blackhawks players receiving the coaching they need instead of getting thrown in the doghouse. It’d be a hard cause and effect to prove, but I’m just putting it out there at this point.
Again I’m no economist, or even freakonomist, but such stark fallout from the Bears’ failings this season will likely have ramifications that will materialize in interesting ways, and with the Blackhawks being in the same sphere of influence that is Chicago sports, you have to speculate they’ll be affected. Here’s hoping Da Bears’ loss is Da Hawks gain.
FOR THE DAGGER!