Chicago Blackhawks: Being A Fan Ahead Of Another Opening Night

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 07: Jonathan Toews
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 07: Jonathan Toews /

As we prepare for a 10th opening day since a key death in the Chicago Blackhawks family, it allows us to look back at how much being a fan of the team has changed in that time

September 26, 2007. Longtime Chicago Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz passed away that day. A sad day for the Wirtz family, but a day that brought monumental change for his hockey team.  Along with him went a tradition of grinding, plodding hockey.

I remember the dark days under Wirtz in the 80s, of being able to say to my buddies, “Hey, let’s go to the ‘Hawks game tonight” and just go. We’d show up and buy tickets for good seats and have no one crowding us.

And in the early 2000s, I had the good fortune to have occasional access to a luxury suite with a full food spread and deluxe dessert cart. But the team was so bad that even my kids, 12 and 8 at the time, didn’t want to watch the game and just went to the souvenir shop.

Climbing out from under a rock

When Rocky Wirtz took the helm, a new generation of entertaining hockey was about to emerge.  Former general manager Dale Tallon brought in Denis Savard as coach to re-engineer the team to a modern, up-tempo style that had taken hold just about everywhere but Chicago.

A couple of kids, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, ignited a hockey renaissance that would bring back fans into a United Center stadium that boasted crowds of only 6,000.

When the new-look ‘Hawks teams started filling the UC seats once again, I remember hearing some fans grumbling that the “bandwagon fans” were annoying. Annoying because they, as longtime loyal fans, could no longer have two seats to themselves. And I wondered, “Why would anyone complain about a packed house after years of mediocrity and empty seats?”

All fans are welcome

As a fan since 1967, and one who cried listening to Cup Final Game 7 on the radio as his beloved ‘Hawks lost to the Canadiens in 1971, I say this: ALL FANS ARE WELCOME.

Everyone starts somewhere as a fan. Everyone has a different reason for following the ‘Hawks, just as everyone is entitled to an opinion about them. Some are more knowledgeable than others, but no one is any better.

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A packed house every night and fans regularly watching on television means revenue, so the team can succeed as an organization. Having an energized young fan base also means that Chicago Blackhawks hockey will continue to be relevant into the future. And the roar of the crowd, not only from the singing of the anthem, is something that is simply inspiring for fans and the players.

It’s all about heart. To newer fans, just remember some simple etiquette. Standing for no apparent reason during game action is discourteous, including leaving from or returning to your seat.  Leaning forward in your seat messes up the line of sight for your fellow fans behind you.  And remember that there are families with children in attendance, so boorish behavior doesn’t fly. Simple stuff, right?

Yeah, that’s the ticket

Even since the “dynasty reign” has been upon us, game tickets are quite the commodity. So how does one go about getting tickets?

When individual game tickets go on sale in the summer, many get swooped up quickly.  ome of the premium games even sell out in the first couple of days. So what can you do if you miss out early?

On the Blackhawks’ official website you can go to the “tickets” tab and purchase tickets that are still unsold or being resold by ticket holders. Everything is legit through Ticketmaster, so there’s no risk involved.

Another option is the season ticket package. But wait, there is a wait. In 2007, I waited too long to pull the trigger on a full season package and missed out. However, I did manage to score a nine-game “Hull” package, which since has increased to two “Hull” packages. You can register for the wait list on the official site.

For away games, there are several Roadwatch parties at various venues to fuel your need for hockey. From the Blackhawks’ website:

All TVs and audio tuned to the game

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Team highlight videos

In-stadium voice, Gene Honda, as the emcee of each event

Members from the Budweiser Ice Crew

Goal lights, songs, and celebrations

It’s the next best thing to being at a home game.

Rocky’s theme

Thanks to team president Rocky Wirtz, all ‘Hawks games are televised. So if you can’t make it to the United Center, you can enjoy your favorite team on any one of NBCSN, WGNTV, NBC Sports Chicago and NHL Network — depending on the game.

On local broadcasts, we are happy to have the talents of Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk/Steve Konroyd with play-by-play and color commentary. And STOP IT RIGHT THERE, with a shout out to Edzo and my prayers for a speedy and full recovery from his ongoing battle with cancer.

On the radio, we are equally happy to enjoy the talents of John Wiedeman and Troy Murray on WGN 720-AM. We are lucky to have these talented gentlemen, because it just doesn’t get any better.

So here we are, October 2017, 10 years after the death of Bill Wirtz. Ten years of steady excellence. Excitement builds as we await the first puck drop of a new season

Let’s all be respectful to each other as fellow fans and support this team. I’ll be in the 300 Level to witness this year’s edition of the Chicago Blackhawks open against the reigning Stanley Cup champions.

Next: 3 Blackhawks To Watch In 2017-18 Opener

Find me on Twitter as SteveY Hockey @SteveYatsushiro. (I really hate the whole Johnny Football/Donny Baseball/Johnny Hockey thing, thus, the mocking Twitter name.) I’ll be tweeting out some comments as the game progresses, and report back here later with my observations.  Good luck to our boys and all you fans for a great season. LET’S. GO. ’HAWKS!