It’s still fashionable in some circles to dance on television’s grave, despite that medium’s ongoing domination in daily reach and time spent. All sorts of research companies and think tanks have banks of data about television’s ongoing relevance even in our web-driven world, but frankly, the most visceral example to me came as the Blackhawks swept San Jose to earn a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Despite being one of the original six, the Hawks have the longest drought between championships in all the NHL. The last time they made it to the Finals was 1992 when they ran into the juggernaut of Scotty Bowman’s Redwings. This year, they have Scotty’s son Stanley in their own front office but more than that, they have the power of TV broadcasting spreading the excitement. And that makes all the difference.
In 2007, owner Bill Wirtz finally ditched his longtime policy of not broadcasting Blackhawks home games. He defended that policy by claiming that airing home games would cheat ticket-buying fans. Of course, from his businessman’s perspective, Wirtz’s real concern was lower attendance at the gate; wouldn’t people just watch at home if they could?
The real longterm effect of that policy was that as cable expanded and television coverage grew ever more effective with the advent of HD, the Hawks lost a generation, or perhaps two, of potential fans. Perhaps they wouldn’t buy tickets every night, but more would buy, if they cared.
Now, building off some amazing Blackhawks’ play for the Canadien and US teams in the Olympics’ Gold Medal final, and a strong finish and to the regular season and increasing excitement through the playoffs, people are jumping on the Hawks bandwagon. Despite ongoing challenges like unspellable names (“Toews” or “Byfuglien” anyone?), the familiarity made possible through TV’s incredible reach has rallied the city behind a franchise we’ve long ignored.
Admittedly, I’m one of those Johnny-come-lately’s that long-suffering, there-through-the-thin-years fans view with skepticism…or worse. But think of it this way: I grew up outside of Philadelphia during the era of the infamous Broad Street Bullies. And they could be coming to town this weekend.
But let’s all be perfectly clear: Chicago is four wins away from their first Stanley Cup since 1962, but that should never be described as ‘just’ four wins away. Go Hawks!