Since Rocky Wirtz's father Bill passed away -- and passed ownership over the Blackhawks to his son -- the organization has yet to make a truly bad decision. Of course, when your father was famous for blacking out home games, almost anything you do will seem positive by comparison. Still, the spawn of Bill has done a tremendous job in hiring (John McDonough), firing (Denis Savard), and overall organizational common sense. It's been a good run.
Chalk another one up for Wirtz. Today, the Hawks announced they'll be freezing season ticket prices in 2009-10, and the way they're spinning it, it has less to do with the economy than with rewarding fans' loyalty:
"Chicago Blackhawks fans are unique in that they have remained loyal to our team through many seasons of challenge," Blackhawks Chairman W. Rockwell "Rocky" Wirtz said. "We are incredibly grateful of this support and recognize that during these challenging times, we are acting in the best interests of our fans and our community by keeping our season ticket prices flat for the 2009-10 season. [...]"
Of course, that might not be the whole story. You could read it as a sign the economy is going to be disastrous for hockey, even for popular teams. Perhaps the Blackhawks are worried that raising prices would drive fans away. Perhaps they're worried that the casual fan will be scared off by the economy, and won't spend the $30-to-$60-plus per ticket every time out. (Plus parking, plus food, plus a foam finger, etc.) That is, at heart, probably what the price freeze is about.
Still, thanks to some clever spin -- McDonough's hiring continues to pay off -- the move comes off as a morally infused one. Who are we to raise prices on our loyal fans? And in this economy? Free hot dogs for everybody! It's incredibly smart PR, and it's good business.
Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger that wishes he didn't have to hear the word "freeze" anymore. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, FanHouse, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.