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Chicago Blackhawks: "Bandwagon Fan" Does Not Apply To Blackhawks Patrons

Rich Kraetsch@richkraetschCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2010

BOSTON - JANUARY 07:  Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates teammate Patrick Kane's goal in the third period against the Boston Bruins on January 7, 2010 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Blackhawks defeated the Bruins 5-2.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks are good, finally.

They have won seven out of their last 10 games, increasing their lead in the Central Division of the Western Conference.

The 'Hawks are also tied with San Jose for the Western Conference (and the NHL) lead in overall points, with 68.

On top of that, the Blackhawks have the highest goal differential in the NHL, and are in the top three in the Western Conference in both penalty-kill and power-play percentage.

Indeed, the Blackhawks are the best team in the Western Conference, and perhaps in the NHL.

This recently dominant Blackhawks team has resulted in many Chicago hockey fans returning to the 'Hawks, in turn meaning more jerseys bought and many sold-out United Center crowds watching Blackhawks dismantle their opposing teams.

I would imagine these new or reborn fans entering the NHL fray, while the Blackhawks are performing at peak, would be the cause of some discomfort to hardened NHL fans.

And indeed, as we saw with MLB fans and the Tampa Bay Rays' playoff run in 2008, and even in 2005 when the White Sox went to the World Series, many older or embattled fans of the NHL are crying "bandwagon fans" in reference to the new Blackhawks fans.

Truthfully, they are right, to an extent. The recent prominence of the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL has brought a lot of brand new fans into the fold.

Countless of the thousands that pack into the United Center each night to watch the 'Hawks play are more than likely seeing their first Blackhawks game in over a decade, or even in their lives.

However, this is not your traditional "bandwagoning." Rather, the rise to glory by the Blackhawks just happens to coincide with the plethora of Blackhawks fans returning to the game, and while their dominance has no doubt aided with ticket sales and television ratings, the two variables (wins and fans) are not as correlated as one might think.

Sadly, up until long-time owner Bill Wirtz's death in 2007, the Chicago Blackhawks were not on local television. That's right; unless the 'Hawks broadcast got picked up by a national broadcaster (which really only happens in the playoffs), the Chicago Blackhawks were unable to be seen on TV in Chicago.

Wirtz also oversaw the alienating of hockey greats such as Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull, refusing to delve deep into his funds for talent, which sparked the longest active Stanley Cup drought, as well as the second-longest in NHL history.

For all intents and purposes, the franchise known as the Chicago Blackhawks did not exist to fans actually from Chicago.

Sure, there was a hockey team that was a staple in the NHL playoffs starting in the mid-70's (perennial first-round losers, though), but there was no way to see them other than to shell out big money for tickets.

And even then, the big names fans wanted to pay money to see would eventually be released or traded away once their contracts were up. It was just another Wirtz inevitability. Indeed for the longest time, the Chicago Blackhawks were the NHL's Pittsburgh Pirates before the modern-day Pittsburgh Pirates, only without television broadcasts.

So while it may outwardly seem as though all the "new" 'Hawks fans are returning or emerging simply because of the dominance of the 'Hawks, it is just not the case.

So don't devalue the fandom of new Blackhawks fans by calling them "bandwagonners" or "fair weather fans", because really, for a long time in Chicago there essentially was no team to hop on the bandwagon for and no way to feel any kind of weather generated by the Blackhawks, fair or foul.

-Jonathan Platek

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