Chicago, IL – This past week twitter and social media almost exploded because of the Chicago Blackhawks donning the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine’s current issue. Whether you root for the Blackhawks or are against them you definitely can’t ignore them. It seems whether you were a Chicago Blackhawks fan or not there was controversy over the SI cover.
Fans from other NHL franchises were complaining that the Blackhawks were receiving too much attention and were offended by the perhaps inaccurate phraseology of “the franchise that brought hockey back”. Their feeling was that their own franchises were being diminished or disrespected somehow and that their fan bases came back regardless of the Blackhawks and the streak.
That may all be true but when was the last time any hockey team was on the cover of SI? When was the last time Lebron James talked hockey if ever? When was the last time hockey was being shown on ESPN sports center? ESPN probably reaches close to 15-20 million people in the United States.
While hockey fans may loathe ESPN and it’s lack of coverage of hockey you have to admit exposure from them doesn’t hurt. It just so happened it was the Chicago Blackhawks and their streak that got ESPN to notice hockey. Commissioner Bettman could not have planned this better himself. In fact the Chicago Blackhawks as a side benefit accomplished something the NHL has been unable to do – make peace with ESPN.
Surprisingly some of the Chicago Blackhawks fan basis were equally offended but by different terminology. Specifically it was the sub paragraph that they felt fostered the notion that hockey now matters because of the Hawks. Their objection was the implication that hockey did not matter prior to the Blackhawks streak.
Then there was the choice of covers that had some Hawks fan in an uproar because there were no “Franchise” players on said cover. Some fans found to be a blatant indicator that SI knew nothing of the team. Others found it a good choice either because the photo itself was great photography of a team or because that was exactly the point. The Blackhawks steak was not about one or two franchise players but an entire team effort.
To all fans I would suggest, Sports Illustrated is in the business of selling magazines and their headlines are supposed to insight some sort of feeling or interest hopefully enough so you pick up the magazine. Maybe their words were not chosen correctly but for the first time in a long time hockey and the NHL are being given some major media attention in a good way. That’s a good thing people for all NHL teams and fans. If the NHL players of other teams don’t have problems with the Blackhawks SI cover then why do their fans?
I also loved how fans dismissed SI as not a “hockey magazine” and will not pick the issue up and will not take it seriously. What is ironic is the “hockey magazine” The Hockey News has a cover of Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews on it looking more like GQ and cashing in on their streak along with their good looks. I mean honestly why not show them playing hockey instead of their Armani or Hugo Boss suits? Although I enjoyed this cover as well, but surprised there was no uproar over this but I guess because it is a hockey magazine it’s alright.
After the horrendous publicity that the NHL received because of the lockout, whether NHL fans want to believe this or not their beloved sport was viewed as a joke and an amateur league. There yes I said that. Most people view the NHL on par with the KHL even though these leagues are vastly different and the NHL is a far superior league. In fact hasn’t ESPN given more coverage to the KHL then the NHL during the lockout. If the Blackhawks change that it is good folks. Anything positive to wipe out those images and beliefs is a good thing.
NHL fans complain that their sport is never taken seriously but then when it is you complain or when new fans come on board they are condescended to by being called bandwagoners. Stop it. Everyone finds hockey and the NHL in different ways the point is as long as they eventually find it and see what a wonderful game it is that is what is important.
Somehow you have to wonder why do some hockey fans have such a snobbish attitude. Do you think NFL and MLB fans care if you just started following a team or you’ve been following them all your life?
But it wasn’t just the fans that got their hockey sticks stuck up their behinds over this whole cover it was also the professional media as well. This past week TSN Toronto was so incensed with the same suggestion that the Blackhawks made hockey matter. They said maybe in the US but not in Canada where hockey always matters.
They actually had a poll who was more important to hockey – Sidney Crosby, Canadian teams or the Chicago Blackhawks. Now I wonder how many hits this poll generated considering this is in Canada. Is it not possible that in Canada, Canadian teams are important; in Pittsburgh Sidney Crosby is important and in Chicago the Blackhawks are important?
Whether it is Canadian teams, Sidney Crosby or the Chicago Blackhawks that generate fan interest the important thing is they are generating interest but I guess that is a concept that is too simple for major media to understand.
Even the NHL’s own network somehow seemed to think that the Anaheim Ducks and their unbelievable record right behind the Blackhawks were being slighted. If Anaheim is being slighted what were the Blackhawks supposed to do not try and win?
All of these objections and notions when you step back are well, silly and short sighted. If the Chicago Blackhawks or any NHL franchise brings increased media awareness of the NHL or interest in the sport that is a good thing and they should be commended for it. If they cause hockey discussions and debates that is great for the sport.
The Blackhawks streak pushed other franchises particularly in the Western Conference to keep up which, is a good thing for the league. Look Columbus now has a streak of their own which is good for the Blue Jackets and their fan base. The Blackhawks are forcing other teams to chase them not only on the ice but in their standard of play which improves the NHL product and brand overall. In the East the same could be said of Pittsburgh.
If stadiums in Phoenix, Nashville, Dallas or even Detroit are filled with Blackhawks fans new or old , this is good for the sustainability of the league. If NHL fans want the NHL to continue then they need to make money period. If that comes from the Blackhawks fan base until these teams get a large enough fan base of their own so be it.
Sports Illustrated may have been wrong touting the Chicago Blackhawks as the Franchise that brought hockey back but they were right about them being must see. Whether you like it or not the Chicago Blackhawks are sexy in the style of hockey they play and are fun to watch. Sports are entertainment, watching the Hawks are you not entertained?