Why I Don’t Want to go to the United Center

United CenterIt’s game two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs between long time rivals Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings. The game is tied at 1-1 early in the second period. The stakes are high as the Blackhawks try to dethrone the long time Kings of the Western Conference before they move to the East and take the crown with them. After scoring the equalizer early in the frame, the veteran Red Wings take control of the game, and leave the Blackhawks stunned and scrambling. However, the Hawks are playing at home, which means they have home ice advantage and a roaring barn of 21,000+ Blackhawks fans behind them. The crowd is rabid. Every time the Hawks touch the puck the 100 level is on their feet with red towels waving and red faces shouting “Let’s go Hawks!” on top of their lungs.

Except that’s not what happened at all.

The United Center was silent and motionless on Saturday afternoon. A sold out playoff game between the Blackhawks and the Red Wings was as still as a graveyard. The seats may as well have been empty.

While watching the game on television, it was clear the Blackhawks didn’t bring their “A” game, but what’s even more disappointing is that the fans didn’t bring their “A” game either. Or any other game, for that matter. It’s the playoffs. Against the Red Wings. I don’t know what could possibly be more exciting than that. If you glanced at the UC crowd on Saturday, you would have guessed updating a Facebook status, checking an email, or taking a “selfie” with friends to put on Instagram was a lot more exciting than watching a live hockey game happening right in front of them.

“OMG #Blackhawks game #PatrickKane #88 #100Level #LOLZ ;P”

Awesome! Now everyone knows you paid a lot of money to go see the hottest team in town! But did you really see them? Were you really there?

xcel energyI had the privilege of watching the Blackhawks lose game three to the Minnesota Wild in round one. Xcel Energy center was absolutely electric. Fans were passionate and emotional (and really nice). Rally towels were flying, spontaneous chants rang throughout the stadium, and everyone spent majority of the game on their feet. It felt like playoff hockey. It felt epic.

Saturday afternoon at the United Center felt like just another day at the United Center. Not even  a random “Detroit Sucks” chant provided the background noise for the game. Just skates on the ice and bodies on the boards. Otherwise: silence.

Here is the handful of times the crowd provided a premeditated “Let’s Go Hawks!” chant audible enough to be heard on television:

-opening puck drop

-after a TV time out when Frank Pellico played those three chords on the organ

-when Tommy Hawks banged his drum three times with his crotch needlessly in someone’s face

I think that about sums it up. Yes, Hawks nation is a nation of well trained drones, and the United Center is quickly becoming another “cool bar” where you can get wasted and brag about it on social media, but not really know who scored what goal or how, or who is #26, and when did the Blackhawks bring him up from Rockford? (This is a legitimate quote I heard with my own ears at the UC during Michal Handzus debut with the Hawks)

Watching other series’ on TV makes me want to be there. Toronto looked absolutely insane during their series with Boston, as did Boston for that matter. Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Ottawa, Montreal. Those cities and fan bases look(ed) excited. Chicago looks jaded. Too much winning in recent history has made this fan base so bored, and as a result boring. I wanted to be in the streets of Toronto, at Nassau Coliseum, even Washington DC when seeing the atmosphere in those cities and buildings. There was nothing about the atmosphere at the United Center on Saturday that made me think “Man, I wish I was there right now,” and apparently the Blackhawks felt the same way.

It would break my heart if the United Center turned into Wrigley Field 2.0, where real fans are outnumbered by frat bros and company outings, where leaving your seat to purchase yet another overpriced beer in the middle of a period is perfectly acceptable, where the average “fan” couldn’t hold an intelligent hockey conversation, and where the game is always sold out but for all the wrong reasons.

That would be incredibly unfortunate.

Follow on Twitter @Midwayjustyna

 

  • http://twitter.com/MrMiller23 Michael Miller

    Nicely done. Although the last paragraph is the answer…. it’s not “if the UC turned into Wrigley”. It’s already happened. McEgo said early on he wanted to turn the Blackhawks into an “event” as opposed to a “game”. He followed the Wrigley blueprint to a proverbial “T” and while it’s proving to be good business, it’s pushing out long-time fans, failing to attract true, NEW, fans, and it creating a environment that could very well have a negative impact long term.

    The Cubs at least have Wrigley to draw the crowds. Should the Blackhawks hit a wall and their on-ice success wanes, I think the crowds at the UC will part like the red sea. – with a smaller salary cap, a lack of solid mid-tier players, 16% annual ticket price increases, and the organizations yearly message of crying poor all playing an additional role.

  • Rick

    “who is #26, and when did the Blackhawks bring him up from Rockford? (This is a legitimate quote I heard with my own ears at the UC during Michal Handzus debut with the Hawks)”
    Not that this makes it okay, but right before we picked up Handzus, Jeremy Morin was wearing #26, and he HAD just come up from rockford.

    • http://twitter.com/midwaymadness Midway Madness

      This is true and is a good point.

      • http://twitter.com/midway_brennan brennan barry

        not really. morin played in 3 games this season and has only ever worn 27 and 11 http://www.hockey-reference.com/players/m/morinje01.html

        • haltron

          Not really… Check your sources.
          http://media-cache-ec2.pinimg.com/550x/2d/48/5b/2d485b601d95f0950cecebec7b4ed329.jpg
          Real fans don’t need hockey-reference.com to tell them what numbers Blackhawks wear. But again; I am not a professional fan.
          maybe he only played in 3 games, but 2 points is 2 points.

          • http://twitter.com/midway_brennan brennan barry

            so we should all be mad at hockeyreference.com then. im cool with that

          • haltron

            or we should just check our sources before we put our feet in our mouths

          • http://twitter.com/midway_brennan brennan barry

            would you like me to get you hockeyreference.com’s contact info? i’m sure they’d love to hear from you and how heartbroken you are about Jeremy Morin’s # status not being updated to include the 1-3 games he wore it.

          • haltron

            I was just sticking up for Rick. You are the one who wanted to dispute his facts, I only cleared up the argument. No egg on my face

          • http://twitter.com/midway_brennan brennan barry

            what’s a man supposed to do when the internet isnt truthful??? that NEVER happens

  • amateur fan

    you guys really are full of yourself over at midway madness, aren’t you? Your articles portray a tremendously disrespectful view of the Chicago Fandom. The views that you put out come across incredibly snobby most of the time, but I guess you are the only real fans in Chicago since you get paid, I am only an amateur fan (for life).

    • http://twitter.com/midwaymadness Midway Madness

      Snobby? Disrespectful? I think you may mean levelheaded and truthful. Point out some other examples please. We call out the fans when they need to be called out. Thank you for reading and participating.

    • http://twitter.com/midway_brennan brennan barry

      the chicago fandom is too quick to start blaming others and not a poor effort by the team they follow

    • http://twitter.com/MidwayJustyna Justyna

      I come from a small town in a small country where our hockey stadium (which housed about 2,500) was booming from puck drop till the final buzzer, win or lose. As a result, I hold the fan base of one of the best teams in the league that plays in one of the biggest stadiums to a pretty high standard, especially during nationally televised playoff games. I’m sorry if that offends you in any way, and thanks for reading and expressing your opinion.

      • haltron

        I love nostalgic stories as much as the next guy, but as fondly as you seem to remember your youth and the romantic sporting events of your native country, this is Chicago, 2013. These fans that you do not want to associate yourself with have helped make the Hawks “one of the best teams” in the history of the league. We have been here all along, so I can’t fathom how you decided to move in and tell us we are doing it wrong because you saw some kid on a smart phone during the game. Just because we have internet in Chicago doesn’t make us lesser fans. In the words of Chicago’s very own Kayne West :

        “Excuse me? Was you saying something? Uh uh, you can’t tell me nothing”

        • http://twitter.com/MidwayJustyna Justyna

          Just so you know, you didn’t make this team “one of the best teams” in history, that was the front office. And if you like enjoying playoff games in complete silence, I suggest you do that from your couch.

        • http://twitter.com/MidwayJustyna Justyna

          …and to address your second point, they also have internet in St. Paul and Toronto, but those stadiums were bursting with excitement. If your going to spend $300+ to go to a playoff game, why not be present in the moment? I still can’t exactly tell what about that you find so disrespectful and offensive.

          • haltron

            I am not going to tell people how to act, they pay, they can do whatever they want. I can only speak for myself and say that whether I am at the stadium or not, I actively cheer when I watch games, and I know the team and the game very well. I guess I just may be too busy paying attention to the games to pay attention to what my peers are doing. I’m sorry if the product on the ice isn’t enough for you.
            When I am able to attend games, it is on my own buck, not on assignment. Neither the front office, nor your boss would have any money to pay their employees without fans. You shouldn’t forget that if you’re (not your) hoping to make a living as a sportswriter.

          • http://twitter.com/MidwayJustyna Justyna

            “I just may be too busy paying attention to the games to pay attention to what my peers are doing. I’m sorry if the product on the ice isn’t enough for you.”

            “It’s the playoffs. Against the Red Wings. I don’t know what could possibly be more exciting than that. If you glanced at the UC crowd on Saturday, you would have guessed updating a Facebook status, checking an email, or taking a “selfie” with friends to put on Instagram was a lot more exciting than watching a live hockey game happening right in front of them.”

            Sounds like you took the words right out of my mouth.
            You have still failed to convince me why beckoning UC attendees to provide a playoff atmosphere during a playoff hockey game is so disrespectful/snobby/smart-ass.

            The team thrives on crowd energy. I didn’t make that up. That’s a fact. It also happens to be a two way street: if the team scores a goal/kills a penalty etc. and gets the fans excited, the fans owe it to that team to return the favor when the team seems to be struggling and need a boots. This is the “advantage” in home ice advantage – the support of the home town crowd.

            Again, I’m so sorry you find that so offensive.

          • haltron

            well put. I also found your article very well written. I apologize for the aggressive banter that has followed – I hope I haven’t made things personal.

            I took a hard stance defending the fans is because I have seen media and other fans go after these patsy-type fans as a voiceless mark too often. Although I do agree that fans can help push a team to the next level (which blackhawks fans have often done), the fans really don’t owe the team anything. The players and the media cannot survive without the fans.

          • http://twitter.com/MidwayJustyna Justyna

            I guess “owe” isn’t the right word, but a loving relationship is give and take. Thanks for the back and forth. I definitely appreciate your passion.

          • haltron

            I thought of an analogy that illustrates what I have been trying to say

            Fans : Players :: Air : Humans

            In this scenario, the media would still be the media

        • http://twitter.com/midway_brennan brennan barry

          if you’re fine with being at the game, among 22K+ then that’s fine. but it doesnt change the fact that the silences are a smack in the face OF the fans who “have been here all along”. so, what “i cant fathom”, sir, is how you can be so complacent as a “real” fan and yet you come off as an elitist – the other reason not to respect some Hawks fans – ?

          • haltron

            Yeah, because I don’t bitch about other fans (and maybe my word choice?), I am a complacent elitist. I also care about how much some “smart-ass” internet hack respects me.

          • http://twitter.com/midway_brennan brennan barry

            i’ve always preferred being a smart ass than a dumb ass. its a compliment to the hard work. rainbows and sunshine dont run the bingo in a big sports town, Haltron. Just because these people pay for a ticket, doesnt mean they deserve the respect of others in attendance. Ever see a 9 year old baseball fan get a beer dumped on him because he was wearing the opposite teams jersey? I wont even tell you what side of town it was because it doesnt matter. There’s terrible fans everywhere. If I, we, or someone else wants to use it as the basis of an article (which by the way, has done EXTREMELY well received since being posted) you shouldnt be shocked when you see it seeing as how you’ve already agreed that you see bad fans at the games you attend. even though we disagree with one another, we do appreciate the readership and the commentary. (even if it does lead to me being a smart ass)

          • haltron

            you must have inferred things that I did not mean to imply. This comment section has lost its fun.
            Good day.

          • http://twitter.com/midway_brennan brennan barry

            damn. that was the one i was trying to have fun with too

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