Chicago – 45 years

It’s been 45 years since the Blackhawks have brought a championship to Chicago.  The entire time, owned in part or in whole by Bill Wirtz.

The Leafs are in a similar position.  And other franchises have never won the cup at all in almost as much time, look at the St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabres, and Washington Capitals as examples of that.  They’ve all had opportunities, but the one thing Chicago has that other teams don’t is a maddening owner.

A few years back ESPN did a quantitative analysis of all major sports franchises in North America using many different aspects and the Chicago Blackhawks came in dead last.  They couldn’t even beat out the Arizona Cardinals.  It’s incredible to think that a once proud and great franchise has been driven so far into the ground that they now rank last among 4 major sports in North America.

Each year Wirtz walks around telling everyone that the teams new signings are going to bring great success to Chicago, and every year it brings the exact opposite.  It reminds of George from Seinfeld when he realizes that if he does everything the exact opposite from his natural instinct, things go amazingly well for him.

Somebody please give Bill Wirtz this insight.

Let me recount some amazing events over the past year or so that will leave you astounded and wondering why.  Why would you continue to distance the limited fan base you have left?

Pat Foley

THE VOICE of the Chicago Blackhawks for 25 years was relieved of his duties earlier this year.  No surprise to anyone, he was quickly picked up in Colorado to do their play by play, but not before the New Jersey Devils also tried to take him away.

Anyone that regularly watches or listens to their favorite teams broadcasts get attached, or at least familiar with their play by play guy.  It’s one of the ways teams connect with their fan base, and most teams feel it’s important to find that right voice.  After Jim Robson retired in Vancouver, the Canucks spent a few seasons getting their guy before finally settling in on John Shorthouse, or Shorty as he’s affectionately referred to.  The team has recently signed a new radio deal with the TEAM 1040 and Shorty will be moving over to the new radio station as part of that deal.  Why?  Because they believe that it’s important to have that familiar voice connecting with the fan.

So what happened with Foley in Chicago?  Well he’s not retiring, and although the Blackhawks are a bit cheap, it also wasn’t a money thing.  The reality is that we’ll never know exactly why Wirtz deliberately low-balled Foley to get him out, but we do know one thing, Wirtz found yet another way to alienate the fans from listening to any more games.

Press Clippings

I decided to do a bit of research to see what was being said out of Chicago about the Havlat deal which is how I found out about Pat Foley.  What I found was that there was some strong opinions against the team, very little written over the past 3 months, and that they have no beat writer for road games anymore.

I was not astonished that both the Sun-Times and Tribune both only had one recent article each on the team, and that both were derogatory in some fashion towards the owner Bill Wirtz.

I guess if the fans don’t care about the team, why should the papers bother writing about them, or send a beat writer to road games. 

Fan Favourite – Mark Bell

So what do teams normally do when they are struggling at the gate?  They often leverage off the popularity of players that the fans are attracted to.  The Canucks did it with Druken, Schaeffer, Cooke, & Sopel quite a few years ago when the team was struggling.  It’s one of the reasons Cooke is stilled loved so much in this town.

What do the Chicago Blackhawks, North America’s last ranked pro-franchise do in the same situation?  They trade the fan favourite, then pay the incumbent so much money, Bob Goodenow had to give his head a shake.  Seriously, if free market Bob thinks it’s above market then somethings out of line with the contract.

For a team that should be desperate to connect with its fan base, it continues to find ways for them to do what they do best, alienate the fans.

Home Games

Chicago’s archaic view of not broadcasting home games continues to spell disbelief in the sports entertainment world. 

Vancouver fans are disgusted when networks won’t pick up all the games, and the team goes out and puts them on PPV.  Can you imagine the disdain in this market if all games weren’t available, even by PPV?

Well, fortunately for Chicago, they will get 5 home games broadcast this year leaving 37 not available in the home market.  Mind you, that’s up from only 1 game last year.  

But don’t think that Wirtz did this willingly.  The local station CSN’s contract with the Hawks calls for 39 regular season games, but with 7 road games being picked up on the national networks, the team needs to allow CSN access to at least 5 home games.  So Wirtz is simply letting them live up to their contractual agreement, and ensuring that as few home games as possible are still available for viewing.

Think about all that?  The team’s roster no longer has the fan favourite player, THE VOICE of the team is gone, there is no beat writer meaning no articles in the paper for road games, and the home games aren’t even shown on TV!!

Talk about marketing genius.  And those are only current year decisions.  Wirtz has been making these kind of brilliant managerial moves for the past 40 years.

The real question is when will Wirtz be gone so that a once storied franchise can be brought back to glory. 

The Chief Canuck

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2 Comments on “Chicago – 45 years”

  1. RJ Says:

    Has there been any offers to buy the blackhawks.I do know of one as of recently but Wirtz has yet to reply


  2. I have no idea RJ, but my guess is that Wirtz wants to fill the building before he’ll sell in order to get the highest value. Ironic isn’t it.


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