I had never seen a live ice hockey game so when my husband's cousin mentioned he had season tickets I said "hey if you are ever looking to get rid of a couple of those tickets..." and sure enough one day he dropped off a couple for April 1st (I did look in the paper to see if he was pulling an April's Fools Day joke!).
The Hawks play at the United Center on Chicago's west side, the same place that the Chicago Bulls play. We had terrific seats in Section 114 in row 13, close enough to see the action and close to one of the goals. It was an exciting game, tied at the end of regulation and ultimately won by the Hawks after overtime and a shootout.
The United Center is not in the best neighborhood in Chicago so we parked in one of the parking lots a block away from the United Center. Expect to pay around $20 to park, we paid $19, the lots next to the UC were $22. Also expect to be stuck in a bit of a parking jam until the crowds clear out. More experienced fans probably have some parking secrets or ways of avoiding the traffic but I figured since we didn't pay for the tickets we could cough up $19 for parking to be safe.
An interesting part of attending a Hawks game is the unique and sometimes controversial approach to the singing of the National Anthem. Instead of dead silence, the fans cheer loudly. When it hits "and the rockets red glare", the place erupts.
Everyone I have taken to their 1st hockey game, American or not, says they get goosebumps during the National Anthem. Some people say it is disrespectful, but most Hawks fans believe it is a great way to honor America. It is not as loud as it once was in the old Chicago Stadium, but when the United Center is pretty full, it is still very moving.
The most famous rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner was sung by Wayne Messmer at the 1991 NHL All-Star Game. The game was 2 days before the start of Operation Desert Storm and was broadcast live to troops in Saudi Arabia. You can see a video of it from the link below.
Five years ago, they couldn't give Blackhawks tickets away. Ask someone the score of the Hawks game and you'd get nothing but a blank stare. Ask someone to name a single Blackhawks player, same deal.
That all changed when Rocky Wirtz inherited the team from his late father. Suddenly, sports bars across the city were showing the Hawks games to large crowds. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have become household names. And the Blackhawks are now the hottest ticket in town.
It was the dawn of the Next Ice Age. After 65 years in the historic Chicago Stadium, the Blackhawks moved across Madison Street for the 1994-95 season and into their new home — the United Center, which has a capacity of 20,500 for hockey.
The United Center offers: an eight sided video replay scoreboard, theatre-style seats, 210 luxurious suites, over 3,000 Club seats, 46 permanent concession stands and 194 points of sale, a cocktail lounge, private banquet facilities, interactive concourse displays, TV monitors throughout the building, Fandemonium (a Blackhawks and Bulls souvenir store) and four other merchandise stands.
In addition to being the home of Chicago Blackhawk hockey and Chicago Bulls basketball, the United Center is one of the best venues around for sporting and musical events.
The Chicago Blackhawks, an Original 6 NHL hockey team, was once a proud franchise that has fallen due to terrible ownership. It was recently named dead last out of all professional franchises in the US and Canada, out of NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL teams. Hopefully this is a wake-up call to ownership, but us Hawks fans know better.
The past featured legends like Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Glenn Hall, Denis Savard, Tony Esposito, Chris Chelios, Jeremy Roenick, Steve Larmer, and the late Keith Magnuson. And the present includes future stars Tuomo Ruutu, Mark Bell, Kyle Calder, and a cast of hard-working young players.
Although the future is bright with promising prospects on the farm team and a good core of solid young players, the team has not won a Stanley Cup since 1961 - the longest current cup drought in the NHL. Lack of exposure, such as not broadcasting home games on TV, penny-pinching ownership, bad treatment of star players, rising ticket prices, and false promises have been brutal for long-suffering fans.
Even through the futility, Hawks fans remain loyal and stand by the players. We love the Hawks, and the true fans still show passion at every game, although we don't blame those who no longer come out to support the team.
Equipment: A Hawks game is still a great time. This team, although young and losing often, plays hard every night and never gives up - a big difference from the past few years. If you have a chance, come out to a game and you will not be disappointed. When you hear that horn after a goal, especially one to take the lead or an overtime game-winner, and the crowd erupts, there is nothing like it. Same goes for the unique National Anthem (see my tip on that for more).
The best games to attend are between hated rivals Detroit and St. Louis, where fans are most passionate and the play on the ice is passionate because of the rivalry. Other games are fun, but beating the Wings or Blues is always special to Hawks fans. The "Deee-troit-Sucks" chant has a nice ring to it.
The season runs from October to the beginning of April and games are played at the United Center. There is usually a game or two on weeknights, and a game on Sunday. Ticket prices range from $10 to $75, with $250 tickets along the glass. Valid student ID's can get you a ticket for $8.
If you decide to go, chances are I will be there. I am a season ticket holder and I sit up in the 300 level. Come say hello.
We saw 2 Blackhawks games during our week stay in Chicago and of course had a great time - hey, its hockey, how can you not have a great time??
One warning though - when we were trying to figure out the best way to get there (take a cab!), we also asked about restuarants in the area for after the game and the concierge at the hotel said "you, its in an area where you are going to want to go the United Center and then leave the United Center."
It really didnt look all that bad of an area, but we took his advice.
The cab situation after the game can be a little frustrating, but there are people on the corners of some of the streets that will flag one down for you (give them a few bucks for their help, of course).
Equipment: As with any hockey arena, its a little chilly, so bring a sweater if you arent wearing a jacket already.
Chicago has two hockey teams - the Blackhawks and the Wolves- but only the Hawks play at the United Center.
The team was named the Black Hawks until 1986. The original owner, Major McLaughlin, chose the name Blackhawks for his team. There are a couple of different stories about why he chose that name. The first one says that during World War I, McLaughlin had served as commander of the 333rd Machine-Gun Battalion of the 85th (Blackhawk) division of the U.S. Army. The division's nickname commemorated Black Hawk, a prominent Indian of the early 1800's, so McLaughlin chose the Blackhawks for the team's name in honor of his military unit. The second story says that the Major had a restaurant in Chicago called The Blackhawk and he named the team the Blackhawks to get a little free advertising for his restaurant. There's probably a little truth to both stories.
After McLaughlin named the team, his wife Irene Castle - a world renowned ballroom dancer who had teamed with her husband Vernon before he had died - designed the unique Black, Red,and White striped uniforms with the head of Chief Blackhawk on the logo. The Blackhawk Indian head logo has been called by many as the best logo in the history of professional sports.
Pete Muldoon was the first coach of the Chicago Blackhawks. He was also one of the most interesting men in the organization's history. Muldoon led the Hawks to a respectable third-place finish in that first year. The team's owner, Major McLaughlin thought that the team should have been able to do better and he fired Muldoon. Supposedly, Muldoon told the Major, "Fire me, Major, and you'll never finish first! I'll put a curse on this team that will hoodoo it till the end of time!" It looked as if there actually was a curse on the Blackhawks until, in 1967, they finally finished the season in first place.
Equipment: Single game tickets can be purchased at the United Center box office, by calling Ticketmaster at 312-559-1212, or through Ticketmaster.com.
Students can present their current high school or college photo ID at the United Center Box Office within three hours of game time and receive one $15 seat for only $8.
We saw a game of the Chicago Blackhawks. The aren has one of the Worlds Biggest Organs in it. Sure wanted to get a close up to see the pipes. But forgot to look was watching the game. Too bad Wayne Greztkey was'nt there too. Could of had a two for one night. WOW!
My first ice hockey game. Canucks at Blackhawks a 3-2 home victory, the winning goal was scored in the last second - it cannot get much better!