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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Chicago Blackhawks draw more women, African-Americans

Just so that you know, I was a fan since before this poll was taken. Let me put it this way, I've been watching the Chicago Blackhawks since I was 8 and it was before I had any idea what hockey was. Imagine that!
Nothing brings sports fans of all generations and races together like winning, and this Blackhawks season has been one of uniting power and universal appeal.

The United Center indeed.

Along those lines, Scarborough Sports Marketing research provided to the Tribune indicated an 11 percent growth since 2007 in the number of adults in Chicago who had either watched, listened to or attended Blackhawks games in the last year -- from 9 percent to 20 percent.

It comes as little surprise that the percentage of males in that group increased from 13 to 27 percent. Similarly, among white-collar men and women identifying themselves as Blackhawks fans the numbers rose from 12 percent in 2007 to 24 percent this year.

More interestingly, and perhaps surprising to some who consider hockey as a traditional a sport appreciated by white males, the numbers of women and African-Americans who fit the criteria of Blackhawks fans more than doubled.

In 2007, only 6 percent of women in Chicago considered themselves Hawks fans compared with 13 percent this year, according to the survey. In the same span, the number of African-Americans in the city identifying themselves as Blackhawks fans increased even more, from 6 percent in '07 to 14 percent in 2009.

"People I know in [the African-American community] are saying not only let's take a closer look at the Blackhawks but let's take a closer look at the game of hockey, and a lot of that is due to their success," said Garrard McClendon, an African-American talk-show host for CLTV.

Knowingly or not, Bears coach Lovie Smith represented that trend when he sat in the United Center to watch Game 6 of the Blackhawks-Canucks series. It was not only the first Hawks game Smith had gone to since coming to town in 2004, but the first NHL game he ever attended. Other high-profile ambassadors such as Bears players Lance Briggs and Chris Williams taking part in the Blackhawks' shoot-the-puck promotion served a similar purpose.

Though difficult to quantify, McClendon took a stab at summing up the changing dynamic on his blog.

"Oh yes, I'm on the bandwagon now," McClendon wrote. "It's time for a brother to get a red, black and white jersey with a native American on the front of it. Here come the Hawks, the mighty Blackhawks."
My response to that very last paragraph, UGH! I think the Hawks fight song could use an update although I can listen to the original recording, but McClendon just ruined it for me.

BTW, there is a "brother" on the team, #33 Dustin Byfuglien. There's also former team captain and head coach Dirk Graham who is said to have some Black descent. I explicitly remember Tony McKegney joining the Blackhawks in the early 90s.

If the Hawks want to expand their fan base then perhaps they can find a way to teach young black children or teens in the hood how to not only skate, but play hockey. It couldn't hurt.

BTW, the next game is today at 2PM at the United Center. The series has Detroit leading 2 games to one. The Hawks won game three on Friday! I'm glad I can see it on TV but not so happy that it's not on in prime time.

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