After two consecutive first round playoff losses, the United Center needs to get back to the Madhouse on Madison
Home ice in the NHL isn’t like having a home field advantage in baseball, football, or basketball. The rink has the same dimensions everywhere, the goals are regulation size, and the ice is supposed to be in similar condition although players will tell you otherwise. Therefore the playing field is somewhat level wherever you go. Visiting teams still play a road-game style which tends to be more conservative but different playing surfaces, weather, and unique stadium dimensions such as Fenway Park’s Green Monster are things hockey players don’t have to worry about.
One common element that influences all home games is the fans. NHL arena capacities range from 15,294 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg to 21,288 at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Both arguments can be made for what makes for a louder arena, a smaller more dense venue or a large venue that holds more people. Either way when playoff time comes around, players can feel the crowd on top of them wherever they go.
The United Center is currently 3rd on the list of largest NHL arenas at 19,700. The Red Wings new stadium, Little Caesars Arena, holds 20,000 only behind the Bell Centre.
As the Blackhawks transition into a retooling phase, it would be wise for their fans to take a look in the mirror and possibly do the same. The last Stanley Cup was won two years ago so the “honey moon” is long over. Much like the team, fans need to get back to knowing what it takes to win and that all starts with making the United Center a hard place to play at.
Players like Jeremy Roenick have spoken out multiple times about the old Chicago Stadium and what a hostile environment it was for opposing teams to play in. With a fanbase dying for another Stanley Cup, playoff games reached deafening levels. That want, that eagerness, and that desire are things that have abated since the Hawks moved into the United Center especially with their recent success. It’s not that Blackhawks fans aren’t loud or that they don’t cheer the whole game, because they do. It’s just the uniqueness of being hungry for first-time success is hard to recreate.
Teams like Nashville, Minnesota, and St. Louis who have been under the Blackhawks thumb the last few years have stadiums that have become like central-division pressure cookers. The past two seasons, Hawks fans have seen St. Louis and Nashville claw and win hard fought series’ with the help of their fans who provided confidence and relentless motivation.
Blackhawks fans have developed a level of elitism that has been noticed throughout the league, and rightfully so. Winning breeds a certain type of fan who generally likes to talk a big game and flaunts championships and achievements. But with the Blackhawks three Stanley Cups of this generation in the rear view mirror and a salary cap demolished roster, ‘Hawks fans may have less proof to back up their smack talk than ever before.
So this season, talk to your kids about Remembering the Roar of the old Chicago Stadium. Talk about the days when the Hawks were the joke of the league. Tell them it wasn’t always like this and how grateful they should be for the recent success of the franchise. Heck, kids today even got to see the Cubs win a World Series. Regardless, if ‘Hawks fans can once again become humbled and desperate for another Stanley Cup, they will need to amp up the Madhouse on Madison like never before.