SBD/January 14, 2013/Franchises

Blackhawks' Season-Ticket Waiting List Grows During Lockout; Wirtz Weighs Damage

Blackhawks this week will announce fan initiatives to "repay those upset"
The Blackhawks "plan to get back into the good graces of paying customers as seamlessly as possible" now that the NHL lockout has ended, according to Chris Kuc of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough said, "During the course of the lockout, our waiting list for our season-ticket base increased by 250. I really don't know what indication that is. ... For those fans who are upset -- deservedly -- we're going to do everything we can to win them back." He added that the team will "announce 'fan initiatives' later this week to repay those upset with the league and the organization." McDonough: "The message to our fans is very simple: We are going to have to earn our way back." Kuc writes in addition to the relationship between teams and their fans, there "could be some repair work needed between players and owners." Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews during the lockout "was one of the more vocal members of the union." Toews said, "I wouldn't say I take anything back. I have a lot of respect for [Blackhawks Chair] Rocky Wirtz and (his) family and everyone who has been a part of this Blackhawks organization. The frustration I was showing always had to do with just the things that … were happening, the relationship between the league and the players. I think they'll say the same things, that they had some frustrations with us too" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/14). In Chicago, Rick Morrissey writes under the header, "Blackhawks Don't Need To Say Sorry For Fans To Return." Morrissey: "I don’t think the Hawks are taking their fans for granted; I think they simply know their audience." McDonough: "How much anger was there? We certainly weren't overwhelmed by it." Morrissey writes Blackhawks fans "will come back." The "most loyal fans in sports will come back because they can't help themselves" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/14).

WIRTZ WITH FRIENDS: Wirtz, regarding the Blackhawks winning back angry fans, said, "There are obviously going to be some people -- some fans -- who are going to have some ill feelings but I think the end result is if we do our job to give fans great entertainment and to win people will see we're continually striving to do better." He added of his role in the CBA negotiations, "I was in contact with (Commissioner) Gary Bettman and I was very much supportive. ... In the short term it could be a very bad thing but it's really a process you have to go through. You can't speed it up because you have to have both sides on the same page." Wirtz, when asked how much damage was done to the sport of hockey, said, "At the end of the day we'll be ahead. It seems funny to say that, but I think we'll be ahead because we now have the framework for labor peace for 10 years and we can now grow this game. There are short-term problems, but long term, it's the greatest sport there is and we just have to expose it to more people." He added regarding why the Blackhawks did not endure staff cuts or pay reductions, "We wanted to hit the ground running. This too was going to pass. We didn't want to take any of John (McDonough's) and [Exec VP Jay Blunk's] resources away from them and I thought it was very important to fund the staff. It took 5 1/2 years to build the staff to where it is today and the last thing we wanted to do was cut anyone's salary or lay anyone off. We just took the position that we weren't going to do that" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/13).

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: In Chicago, Mark Lazerus noted the Blackhawks will "play 10 of their first 12 games on the road," with Bulls games and other events scheduled at the United Center. The organization "knew the United Center was pretty well booked this time of year, and were bracing for a schedule like this." The Blackhawks "after the brutal road stretch" will have seven straight home games. The team will "have 10 instances of back-to-back games" this season (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/13).
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