Chicago Blackhawks: How the Fans Have Changed As Much As the Team

By Michael Guzman
Chicago Blackhawks Parade
Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Things have certainly changed in the city of Chicago over the course of the past ten years. While the Chicago Blackhawks were transforming themselves from pretender to contender under the watchful hand of Stan Bowman, John McDonough and Rocky Wirtz, the Chicago White Sox, the city’s blue collar team, found success themselves, capturing a World Series.

With the Chicago Bears‘ success the season after, Chicago sports took to the forefront of water coolers and media in the city once again. Yet, as the Blackhawks morphed, a rift opened, dividing the city. Day one super-fans clamor on social media for bandwagoners to be burnt at the stake for not worshiping the Adrian Aucoin led Blackhawks of old.

However, walking downtown today, isolated from the mayhem that occurred last night in Wrigleyville, you could barely tell that anything out of the ordinary had happened. For Chicago’s business class, discussions of back-checking clearly have no place in the board room, but the excitement was not just submersed under a suit and tie; it was non-existent.

Well, this is supposedly the fan base which deserves the credit, right? The day one fans, worker by day, maniac at The Madhouse on Madison by night. After all, this is the clientele capable of paying the incredibly inflated prices at The United Center, with tickets going for hundreds of dollars on resale, for games of a seven game series.

Shouldn’t this be the group proclaiming Let’s Go Hawks when seeing a brother or sister in the uniform of the Indian head sweater? Not necessarily. Remember, sports fandom in itself is incredibly irrational. From superstition to facial hair, memorabilia shrines turn into rooms worth thousands of dollars, to someone at least.

And yet we find ourselves here. Young, naive Hawks fans on social media picking fights with Boston Bruins fans on behalf of the team and city they love. Self-appointed laureates, these are the same people which cameras captured boozing and creating mayhem in the name of joy.

I realized something unfortunate during this team’s most recent run to capture Lord Stanley’s Cup. It is impossible for fandom not to wane off in life, especially for downtown Chicagoans. The Hawks are no longer the city’s team; they are a team of the suburbs.

With ticket prices exploding through the roof and a consistent streak of sellouts still going strong there’s an era of fans just as hungry to watch the likes of Chris Chelios and Tony Amonte as we are to watch Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. But it appears they have been phased out in one way or another.

For some, a real life got in the way of super-fandom. Others have made a career out of it, or at least have the flexibility to continue to watch or attend every game, building a collection of memorabilia as the team builds a collection of Stanley Cup rings.

Franchises shift fan bases regularly; it happens. For this generation of fans who have grown up watching this team rise from obscurity to the pinnacle of hockey twice in four years, there now stands a form of moral ground to keep the tradition of success going. Not only for the sake of the team, but for the sake of the city.

Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486

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