Poor blackhawks fans finally get (some) home games televised..
In his first major move with the Blackhawks, Rocky Wirtz is trying to do what fans long have asked for: televise the team's home games.
In a Monday memo, Wirtz told employees that Blackhawks representatives met with Comcast SportsNet executives last week about getting some home games on the air during the current season.
It's important to understand that CSN's current schedule was developed well over a year ago, so fitting the Hawks into that schedule can't be done overnight," wrote Wirtz, who succeeded his late father, William Wirtz, as head of the family's $1.3 billion business empire earlier this month. "But it can be done and ... we are convinced it is the appropriate next step to re-energizing Chicago hockey fans and creating new fans."
A source within Wirtz Corp. says up to a half-dozen home games may be broadcast this season, the majority of them coming by the end of this year. The first game most likely will be Nov. 11 against the Detroit Red Wings.
CSN already is scheduled to broadcast 39 of 41 of the Hawks' road games this season.
Wirtz also said the team is working on a "long-term strategy" for televising more home games in future seasons.
His move is a departure from the long-standing practice of his father and grandfather, longtime Hawks owner Arthur Wirtz, who chose to black out home games so season ticket-holders were not paying for something they could see for free by staying home.
"You have to appreciate his loyalty," said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago sports business consulting firm Sportscorp, "but it came at a cost. Clearly, Rocky is trying to change that."
The cost for the Hawks was a smaller fan base, which had to work hard to stay connected with the team, Ganis said.
Finding time on the air should be relatively easy for the Hawks because the team is a part-owner of local cable station Comcast SportsNet, as are the Bulls, White Sox and Cubs. The Cubs, along with this newspaper, are owned by Tribune Co.
Jim Corno, president of Comcast SportsNet Chicago, confirmed that the network is "moving forward with the concept of airing some Blackhawk homes games" this season. He described the talks as being in the "preliminary stages" and said further details will be revealed in the "very near future."
It shouldn't be hard to drum up advertisers once the home games are scheduled, sports marketing experts said. Although hockey fans are a smaller part of the population than fans of other pro sports, their demographics skew higher in terms of education and income, Ganis said.
"Sponsors are calling. They're dialing the phone off the hook with a ton of interest," the Wirtz source said.
In a move that surprised many in the Blackhawks organization, Rocky Wirtz took control of the team in early October.
His younger brother, Peter, had long been expected to take over the franchise, but Peter declined his brother's request to stay on, saying he wanted to focus his efforts on the family's food-service business.