The team makes the marketing department’s job easy. Saturday night’s home opener was a great example.
Before the Blackhawks started their home schedule, the marketing people put together a historic experience for the fans. I attended the Opener, and found the entire experience to be fantastic.
First, there was a red carpet rolled out and the players arrived in limousines. Fans were able to give their favorite players a high five before the game, as the well-dressed Hawks strolled into their building.
Even injured players Marian Hossa and Adam Burish made an appearance, and the players were willing to stop for pictures, autographs, or just a fan’s adoration.
To get that close to the players is fantastic for any professional sporting event, and this was the second year the Blackhawks have started their season this way.
But then the history began on the ice. Before the playing of the national anthem, the team was introduced and skated to the blue line. The fans were then thrilled to see the four team Ambassadors all skate out and join the current roster on the ice.
It was the first time that Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Tony Esposito and Denis Savard were on the ice at the same time, all in full uniform, skating out to join the current Hawks in front of 20,000 thrilled fans. The roar was deafening, even when Hull almost coasted past the Hawks before Mikita and Jonathan Toews caught him.
The entire pre-game experience was top notch, and the marketing department earned their salaries in making the beginning of what should be a special season a historic night for the fans.
Then the game started.
The Hawks came out a little trigger shy, not throwing as many pucks at the net in the first period as most fans expected. Through three games, the Blackhawks led the entire NHL in shots on net, and yet they were tied with the Colorado Avalanche at zero after one period.
In the second the scoring started, and the mistakes did as well. Cristobal Huet, who received a noticeably mixed reaction from the crown when introduced, allowed three goals that could, and should, have been stopped. The Hawks had to come back to tie the game before heading to a scoreless overtime period.
Then, again, there was history.
Andrew Ladd ended the longest shootout in Blackhawks history — nine shooters — and the Blackhawks thrilled a capacity crowd with a 4-3 victory.
Overall, the night was overwhelming. Between the marketing department beginning the night with special festivities and Ladd ending the night with a clutch winner, there was nothing the Blackhawks’ home opener left to be desired.