By Peter Dawson
The return of sub-freezing temperatures to the Chicagoland area can only mean one thing: It is time for the Blackhawks to go on another historic winning streak.
The Blackhawks 4-1 road victory Tuesday over the Predators was the team’s 12th in a row, and set a new franchise record. Once again, they have Chicago buzzing about them.
The Blackhawks, winners of three Stanley Cups in the last six years, have dominated sports fans’ attention in the spring. However, the regular season is a bit of a different beast. With an 82-game schedule, it’s a lot harder to maintain that high level of interest. Particularly when those howling winds start to find their way back into the city.
But here we are. It’s a cold January day, and even now the team is finding ways to energize the city.
“We’re not necessarily a hockey bar, but it’s kind of been changing with them being on the streak right now,” said Sean Miller, 28, assistant manager at the Elephant and Castle Pub and Restaurant. “It’s funny, (the Blackhawks) are somebody we’re not in a contract with and their not technically our promoters, but they kind of are at the same time.”
Patrick Kane has been otherworldly this season, having already tied his career high in goals (30) after last night’s performance. And goaltender Corey Crawford proved once again why he might be this season’s biggest All-Star snub.
What the streak really shows is the staying power of the Hawks in Chicago.
“There is a real hunger in this community,” said Irving J. Rein, a Professor of Communications Studies at Northwestern University and co-author of “The Sports Strategist: Developing Leaders For A High Performing Industry.” “This has always been a strong Blackhawks country, this is one of the storied, original-six franchises…. it’s not like the southern teams who haven’t been there that long.”
In addition to the local businesses, the Hawks fan footprint has continued to expand. Andrew Bradburn, an Indianapolis resident who makes a nearly three-hour daily commute up to Chicago, is caught up Blackhawks’ mania.
“We have a little bit of an issue watching the games, but we are still huge fans,” said Bradburn, 60.
Twenty-four days ago, this group was languishing in third place in the Central Division, and trailed the first-place Dallas Stars by a healthy 13 points. Now, the Blackhawks sit atop the division and the Western Conference by five points, as the team and its fans are already salivating at the opportunity to defend a Stanley Cup title.
“When the game comes on, we know a lot of people are going to be in here watching it,” Miller said. “It’s like most sports, it brings people together.”