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Editorials

Have the Chicago Blackhawks Been a Fad?

agoldschmidt
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 05: A fan holds a sign during the game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Vegas Golden Knights at the United Center on January 5, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 05: A fan holds a sign during the game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Vegas Golden Knights at the United Center on January 5, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Blackhawks will most likely miss the playoffs for the first time in a decade ending an incredible run

Blackhawks fans, young and old, have been on cloud nine for the past decade.  Three Stanley Cups, multiple playoff runs, and must-see tv featuring superstars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.  But after nine straight playoff appearances, it looks like the Hawks will be missing out on the tenth.

You can try to blame it on the coaching staff, the front office, or even the players, but the bottom line is that all good things come to an end.  It’s debatable if this team can retool and come back in a few years, but right now the future is bleak.

The resurgence of the Blackhawks has been one of the best in professional sports and we are all lucky to witness such a drastic change.  But as the dynasty that has helped carry the NHL the last few years falls further into mediocrity, how will the fanbase respond?

Season Ticket Holders

There have been a lot of rumors about Blackhawks season ticket holders not renewing after this season.  In fact, there must have been a significant drop-off after last season as well considering the additional tickets available to partial plan members.  There have also been a lot of emails going out notifying fans of last minute tickets available on game days.

With season tickets expected to rise again next year, it’s hard to imagine a high renewal rate for a few reasons.  The team will be similar to this year’s team signifying some type of rebuild.  Fans are also paying a premium price to watch the Blackhawks compared to other NHL teams.  The combination of high priced tickets and experience costs without a playoff caliber team probably means a lot of people on the waiting list will get a call this summer.

And on top of that, STH’s haven’t even been able to sell their seats to get their investment back.  They are taking 50-75% losses on face value.  If you don’t have regular partners that help you split the cost of going, it’s hard to taking a loss on every game you can’t attend.

Rebuild

Teams like Boston and Pittsburgh are franchises that have experienced some down years, then back up into playoff contention.  With the Blackhawks “salary-hell,” it’s hard to imagine how it’s possible for them to emulate what those teams did.  Yes, Sidney Crosby and Gino Malkin take up similar amounts of the salary cap as Toews and Kane do, but they are highly productive.  Kane still pulls his weight, but many debate whether Jonathan Toews is a $10.5M player.

The Hawks are going to get a few top prospects in this draft, and they have a few coming up from previous drafts but it’s always hard to tell who can be NHL impact players.  Henri Jokiharju looks like a solid player, but he’s still 19.  Maybe he and others will be ready for the NHL but at that point Toews will be 33-34.  And Seabrook and Keith will be beyond 35.

Unless the Blackhawks trade some major pieces to get younger assets, it will be tough to turn this boat around.  And the mystery of Corey Crawford‘s health isn’t helping either.  Without him, you will get results like this season.

The Fans

There has always been a separation between the young and old when it comes to Hawks fans.  There are the people that have been fans of the team for decades, as well as younger fans who jumped on the bandwagon with the success of the team.  It’s probably a safe bet that the generation who has stuck around this long will probably continue to be there.  The big question is will the younger fanbase abandon the Hawks now that they’re not winning.

The Hawks have done a great job embedding themselves in the community and putting their mark all over the City of Chicago.  They knew this day would come where the Hawks wouldn’t be competitive anymore, but maybe not this soon.

In a city that will always love football, basketball, and baseball, it will be interesting to see if hockey can continue to stay relevant.  There is no doubt that youth programs have expanded because of the influence of the Hawks.

So in conclusion, do I believe that the Chicago Blackhawks have been a fad?  Yes, I do.  I think the team is making it pretty hard to the casual fan to stick around with the cost of going to a game.  I think a lot of people are going to stick around, but a decent size group will fall off.  It happens to the best of teams and it will happen again.  But before you know it, they’ll be back again.  I have a lot of trust in the organization to get through these tough times, but it might be a few years.  And that’s something I believe Blackhawks fans are willing to give them after such a successful decade of great hockey.

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