Not anymore. After beating the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 Monday night
they now lead the 7-game Stanley Cup series 2-0.
This is a remarkable turnaround by Chicago's famous ice hockey team. When I was living in the windy city, the Hawks when not on strike were mostly an embarrassment. I remember on the odd occasion when I would go and watch them, the crowd would boo them onto the ice. The reviled previous owner Bill Wirtz priced tickets well over the top for what is the most working class sport in the city and sparse crowds would spread themselves around the 23,000 capacity arena.
Nicknamed Dollar Bill, Wirtz also banned the Hawks from being shown on live television and the result was that no one cared a jot about one of the NHL's first six. There was no love of the team that were founded in 1926, just distant memories of the old days passed down from fathers and grandfathers. The Chicago media relegated them to also rans and to rub salt ESPN dismissed the Blackhawks with the humiliating title of "worst franchise in sports"
in 2006. Quite a feat.
But at the start of the 2007 season owner Bill Wirtz died after a brief battle with cancer. He had served as president for 40 years and few tears were shed amongst Chicago's sports fans. At the minute's silence to mark his death the crowd booed loudly and his replacement Rocky Wirtz, Bill's son was met with derison.
However Rocky acted quickly to change his father's loathed and archaic policies. Rocky signed a television contract with local channel WGN and all games were aired live. Tickets were more affordable starting at just $15 and marketing and public relations improved. The game last night was the Hawks 101st consecutive sell out home game.
The city started to fall in love again with the Blackhawks, trophy-less since 1961 and the longest drought of any of the NHL teams (as the Cubs is in baseball). Before we left Chicago we saw the Hawks play their last game of the 2008 season
. It was like day and night. That team included it's youngest ever captain, then 20-year old Jonathan Toews and one of North America's best young players Patrick Kane.
Today the Hawks is all Chicago are talking about. A friend of mine was at a Cubs match this weekend and told me there were more Blackhawks red shirts on show than the Cubs blue.
Tonight the Hawks go to Philly for Game 3. There will be Chicagoans in Philly unadoubtedly as they/we get everywhere, but for those sat at home, thanks to Rocky Wirtz, Hawk's fans will be stood in front of their televisions clapping, stamping their feet and screaming over the American national anthem. A tradition once as famous as the Blackhawk's losing streak.