Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Blackhawks' Goal: Use TV to Save Franchise

The photo on the left is of the Chicago Blackhawks' former goalie and hockey great, Tony Esposito. In my wayward youth, I attempted to be a goalie and when making the occasional save would often yelp: "Esposito makes the play!"
Although I'd never attended a live Hawks game during the late 1960s and early 1970s, I knew of Esposito (along with other Blackhawks luminaries of that era including Bobby Hull, Dennis Hull, Stan Mikita, Bill White and, of course the enforcer, Keith Magnuson). I knew them because Blackhawks games were regularly shown on WGN-TV.
Fast forward to now. If you asked me: "Who's on the Hawks?', I'd be stuck for an answer. And I wouldn't be alone. The team's fan base, young and old, is almost gone--mainly because of fallout from a decision by longtime Hawks' owner, Bill Wirtz, who pulled the plug on regularly-scheduled televised games many years ago.
On Nov 11 that's going to change as the Hawks take on the Detroit Red Wings, in a home game that will be carried by ComCast SportsNet.
Bill Wirtz died in September and new management, led by his son Rocky (a great sports name, don't you think?) is determined to pump new life into this tired franchise. One of his first calls was restoring the Blackhawks home games to television, even if its just cable TV. So far, only seven home games will be carried on ComCast SportsNet this season, but more are expected in the coming years.
So, after a long recess, here come the Hawks.
Personally, I'm glad they're back on the little screen, even in this limited capacity. I don't want the Blackhawks team to be a bunch of strangers in town. Friends of mine who work in sports media jobs say hockey players, when off the ice, are the nicest and most down-to-earth of all professional athletes. If true, then why shouldn't those type of guys get some publicity, too?
Moreover, hockey--when played right-can be a great spectator sport, provided the bush-league fighting and rink-side dramatics are keep in check (no pun intended).
Just putting the Hawks back on TV won't cure the team's fundamental ills or push them immediately higher in the standings. But it will generate greater fan interest, which will help boost ticket sales and bring back local media attention.
With greater corporate sponsorship bucks or TV-related revenue flowing back to the team, management may have the extra cash to acquire or cultivate new talent.
Heck, I'm even ready to forgive them for blowing the 1971 Stanley Cup!.
What's more, I'd like to see the Hawks give the Chicago Bulls a run for the winter-time sports dollar and all that goes with it.
Who knows?
When local kids play in goal and make saves, they may again shout out the name of a Blackhawks' goalie.