Just flip on your TV tonight and watch the Blackhawks-Red Wings game. As everyone knows, Reinsdorf owns the building's other tenant, the NBA Chicago Bulls. He's been able to watch the renaissance of the Blackhawks up close and personal. Until the 1990s, there was no question that Chicago was a hockey town. Even with good but not great teams, Hawk fans filled the building and created a raucous atmosphere that was unlike any other arena.
As the Bulls saw their profile rise in the Michael Jordan era, the Blackhawks pretty much became a forgotten team in Chicago. Missing the playoffs 9 of the last 10 years (sound familiar Phoenix?) had a lot to do with it. So did a lack of promotion that included not televising home games. And be sure to remember a management team that was badly out of touch with its' customers.
I went to a Blackhawks-Capitals game in Chicago with my son a few years ago and I was appalled at what I saw. The attendance was announced at 12,000 and there weren't 5,000 people in the arena. I bought tickets in the front row of the upper deck and was thrilled to have scored such good seats. I quickly learned that could have bought the same seats outside the arena for about half of what I paid . When we got to the game, I realized that hardly anyone was sitting behind me. Coming from places like New York and Philadelphia, I was stunned to see how far Chicago had fallen.
So what has Jerry seen happen over the past two years? Well, he's watched the Blackhawks turn things around on the ice and that makes everything else possible. The organization has promoted the team in all kinds of ways. And the fans have responded.
The Blackhawks were 29th in attendance two years ago, ranking behind your Phoenix Coyotes among others. Now they have sold out every regular season and playoff game this year with a total attendance of over 1 million. They had dasher boards filled with house ads and now corporate sponsors are lining up to align with the team. The fans, who were treated like the southbound end of a northbound horse, now embrace the team.
And Jerry watches all of this.
How many time in the last few years have the Coyotes and the Blackhawks been mentioned in the same breath as young teams on the cusp of a breakthrough? Think Jerry has heard that?
No two American cities are sister cities like Chicago and Phoenix. No two cities have struggled with their hockey team more that Chicago and Phoenix. And no one inside of hockey would be surprised if the Coyotes' young talent develops and emerges in the near future like the Hawks have..
Now I don't know what kind of hockey fan Jerry Reinsdorf is but I do know that he is a pretty smart businessman. Savvy business people like to buy low and sell high. And I'm betting that our Jerry wants to see if lightning can be caught in a bottle again. I'm sure that he has consulted with knowledgeable hockey people and understands the potential of this team. And I'm sure he knows full well that the championship window is closing on the Suns.
Jerry Reinsdorf wants in on this team because he sees the opportunity to make money. He may struggle to make an operating profit for a year or two but if the franchise starts to win hockey games and makes the playoffs, he can make money operating the team. And he'll make a killing when it comes time to sell the team.
It's not nearly as far fetched as some people would have you believe. And its' mostly because he's been able to watch the same story play out right before his eyes.