Chicago Blackhawks America’s Team as Winter Classics Convey

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2015 Winter Classic Logo

We’re now just 11 days away from the ninth edition of the NHL Winter Classic, and once again the Chicago Blackhawks, truly America’s hockey team now, are involved. A total of eight games of this nature have been held, with the Blackhawks hosting the 2009 event, and serving as the road team for the 2015 version.

Traditionally held on New Year’s Day, the Winter Classic always brings an increase in television ratings, concessions, merchandise and NHL jerseys sold. After all, the Winter Classic means a new special commemorative jersey must be made and then sold in mass quantities.

As in ’15, the Hawks will play the role of visitor (and for their sake, hopefully spoiler) in a baseball venue.

This time it’s Busch Stadium, home of Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals, which will host the Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues on January 2nd, 2017.

Just like the 2012 event, this Winter Classic will not be played on New Year’s Day, because the holiday falls on a Sunday. The NHL is following the precedent set by college football bowl games (i.e. an unofficial non-compete agreement with the NFL) which shifts play to Monday January 2nd when January 1st is a Sunday.

Neither college football nor the NHL want to go head to head with the NFL; nobody wins in that arrangement. The Blackhawks have already played in a quarter of the Winter Classics, but come January 2nd, the fraction will now increase to a third. That’s not coincidence; it’s by design.

The January 1st game, won by the visiting Detroit Red Wings 6-4 at Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, had the highest American television ratings of any hockey game in 33 years. The Hawks also lost the ’15 game 3-2 to the Washington Capitals at Nationals Park.

Maybe the third time will be the charm for the Chicago Blackhawks? Win or lose on the ice, they continue to win the battles for hearts and minds off of it. No team has been involved in three Winter Classics, but five other teams have been a part of two. In a 30 team league, there have been a potential for 18 different teams to get a chance to play in it, but 11 have.

 

“We love the fact that it’s Chicago,” said NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood during the 2015 Stanley Cup Final series.

“Obviously the No. 1 hockey market in the country right now, the No. 1 brand in the sport of hockey across the entire country,” said an important guy among the organization serving as the sport’s television partner.

The Chicago Blackhawks are every bit the #1 brand and #1 market today as they were in June of 2015, and they currently sit stop both the Central division and the Western Conference by a healthy margin at this juncture. The Blues, now the team’s biggest rival, following the league realignment which put the Red Wings in a different conference, are seven points behind the Hawks in third place.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, partnered with FOX Sports Engage Network. and News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, currently contributes regularly to the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye publication and Bold Global.

He also consistently appears on numerous radio and television talk shows all across the country. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and Sound Cloud.

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