Few would deny the Blackhawks are experiencing a rebirth in Chicago in 2008-09. There is a gusto about the sport that hasn't existed in a long time here -- the combination of marketing efforts by the team and successful, entertaining hockey on the ice. Fans are excited about the NHL again in this city, and that excitement has been impossible to ignore.
Who knew, though, that so many people were so excited? Who knew that the Blackhawks' attendance numbers -- and merchandise sales, and sponsorships -- were so high? The Trib grabbed some of the numbers yesterday, and they're impressive. Season-ticket sales are up 300 percent, from 3,400 last season to more than 14,000 this year. Sponsorships have grown by 45 percent. Ratings are up 150 percent. Merchandise sales are up 254 percent.
It's a remarkable turnaround for a franchise that, thanks to mismanagement and poor hockey and a general malaise about the sport after a strike, was largely forgotten in Chicago even two years ago. Now it's back.
So are the Blackhawks more popular than the Bulls? In terms of overall popularity, probably not. But if things keep up this way -- and if the Bulls keep losing ugly games to the Charlotte Bobcats -- that notion will get less and less far-fetched.