Blackhawks Reach One Goal, Still Seeking Another

By Paul M. Banks

This week the Blackhawks reached one milestone, but fell short of another. The Hawks established an all-time single-season attendance record Wednesday night before their contest against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It’s amazing what putting home games on television, welcoming back iconic players and broadcasters, hosting the Winter Classic, developing a young winning team etc. can do for a franchise previously in need of rejuvenation!

Laura Fontana-Vena of Elmhurst was the 8,547th fan to pass through the United Center’s turnstile on Wednesday, marking the Blackhawks’ 835,972 this season, surpassing the former record of 835,971 established during the 1995-96 season. Fontanta-Vena was presented with a Blackhawks jersey with “835,972” on the name plate before performing the ceremonial puck drop.

The Blackhawks’ new record is through 39 regular-season contests at the United Center, all of which have drawn capacity crowds.

Now for the bad news, the Hawks lost that contest against Columbus, 4-3 in an overtime shootout.

However, they picked up a point in the standings, giving them a C-note for the season: a milestone they haven’t reached in 16 years. They now need just one point to clinch the 4th seed in the Western Conference- and with it home ice advantage for the playoffs’ first round. The Hawks have just two games remaining, a home and home with their hated rival Detroit. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville discussed the Red Wings. “I think both teams want to go into the playoffs on a strong and high note. They’re a dangerous team and we haven’t beaten them yet and I think we’ll be excited to finish strong,” the bench boss stated.

Should that option fail, Chicago can also grab the coveted 4th seed if the two teams chasing them, Vancouver and Calgary, both stumble somewhere in their last two. Calgary has a home and home with mediocre Edmonton. Vancouver faces off against two bottom feeders: the cellar dwelling Colorado Avalanche and the third-from-last Los Angeles Kings.

Wednesday night’s second period intermission was noteworthy as NBC Chicago’s own Paula Faris took part in the popular “Coca-Cola Shoot-the-Puck challenge.” The much ballyhooed on-ice promotion gives contestants three chances to win hundreds of dollars if they can put the puck in the net from the center line. Unfortunately Faris, like the Blackhawks themselves, fell short of her goal on this night and missed all three shots. However, I did hear from Hawks personnel that she made three in a row while practicing before the game.