Even though the Chicago Blackhawks saw their half-season-long points streak come to a crashing halt last Friday, they still have been getting plenty of love from the national media. Whether it was ESPN’s debate over whose streak was superior between the Hawks and the Miami Heat, or Joe Posnanski’s lengthy column on the state of Chicago hockey for NBC Sports Network, the lovefest has been at a fever pitch for this team.
On Tuesday morning, Sports Illustrated joined the fray, revealing their cover choice for the week: a photo of the Blackhawks with a headline: The Franchise that brought hockey back.
Quickly, the Twitter-verse exploded with reaction. A lot of fans attacked the cover for its hyperbole, saying that its insinuation that the Hawks’ run somehow “saved” hockey diminished the impact of the fans of 29 other teams in hockey’s rapid post-lockout recovery. There were also cries of derision about the cover containing a picture including Daniel Carcillo, with some even going so far as to say that the cover would curse Carcillo into never scoring another goal for the Blackhawks.
All kidding and snark aside, the cover, headline included, does exactly what it is supposed to do, which is to inflame passions. Yes, the assertion that the Blackhawks “saved hockey” is a fairly nonsensical concept when you consider how well the league has rebounded league-wide, but when you consider the way that the Hawks have asserted themselves onto the national sports landscape this season, it isn’t without reason to then say that they brought some casual fans of the game back in.
The record ratings that accompanied the Hawks’ meteoric rise to the top of the NHL standings also stand as backup to what SI’s cover implies. This year, Comcast SportsNet has been smashing ratings records left and right, and the Hawks’ tilt with the Detroit Red Wings on NBC was the most highly watched regular season game ever on the network (excluding the Winter Classic). Simply put, the Hawks have forced people who were on the fence about hockey after the lockout to rejoin the fold (except for this guy), and Sports Illustrated is simply trying to capture that.
Besides, who’s going to pick up, much less talk about, a copy of SI with the Blackhawks on the cover and a bland headline like “Man, the Hawks are Great!” Hyperbole sells; hyperbole inflames debate; hyperbole is the name of the game in the publishing business. The reaction to the SI cover is exactly what the publishers wanted, and that’s what the big takeaway from this whole story should be.
The other thing that warrants mention is that hockey fans are guilty of demanding mainstream media attention for their sport, but then turning around and complaining loudly when that coverage doesn’t fit what their expectations are. ESPN was excoriated in many circles for their attempts to link the Blackhawks and the Heat, and now SI is incurring wrath because of their supposed slight to the rest of the league and to fans across the country.
Fans who want more mainstream coverage but balk whenever that coverage happens simply cannot have their cake and eat it too. If they don’t like what one media outlet is doing, then it is perfectly within their rights to tune out and utilize another source. There are plenty of websites and other outlets that do a fine job of hockey coverage, so rather than complaining about the style of coverage, or lack thereof, fans should just take a deep breath and not get so worked up about something they have little to no control of.