The Chicago Blackhawks are playing in an NHL outdoor game for the fourth time in four years. Add the 2009 Winter Classic and that is five out of nine years. They are arguably the most popular NHL team, they’re definitely the most successful in the decade, but these games are getting old.
Someone once said, “When you try to make everything special, nothing is special.” The NHL is a business and they’re trying to squeeze every penny out of the Blackhawks and their fans but numbers are declining.
The Blackhawks vs Detroit Red Wings in 2009 is tied for the highest overnight ratings for a Winter Classic. There have been blips but viewership has been on the decline for all of the outdoor games, including the Hawks.
There are hurdles for the NHL because they put these regular season games up against college football bowl games and other big events. Last year’s Blackhawks Stadium Series game had the lowest overnight rating of any NHL outdoor game with a 1.2 as it was pitted against the Daytona 500.
With that being said, Chicago vs Pittsburgh Penguins in 2014 was on a snowy Saturday night when many people stayed in. You would think it would receive a better rating than 2.1 with the two premier teams in the NHL playing.
As mentioned before, the NHL runs a business so they’re going to try to sell you the goods. There’s two things you can count on. A new jersey and a new toque for the “special” game. I can’t speak for everyone but I know I’m not buying a new hat and new jersey every season.
A big merchandise problem is that it seems like the Blackhawks and NHL stopped trying to come up with any good designs for the organization. The last three seasons are slightly modified versions of the same concept. You can still find 2015 Winter Classic and 2016 Stadium Series jerseys sitting on shelves for great discounts.
The games seem so forced and inorganic. Pittsburgh rivals the Blackhawks in popularity but rarely play each other and have not met in a Stanley Cup Final during this decade, despite both team’s success. Nobody cares about the Washington Capitals in Chicago and well…Washington either. The NHL is trying to create a rivalry between Chicago and the Minnesota Wild but that needs to happen naturally.
Maybe this season against the Blues can receive better ratings than the last three outdoor games. It is the first time the Blackhawks are facing a true rival since Detroit in 2009.
How About A Break?
There are fans who still get excited about these games but the excitement has surely faded. The NHL’s attempt to shove the Blackhawks down everyone’s throats has not been a successful recipe as fan viewership and jersey sales have been down. I don’t think the NHL will stop looking to the Blackhawks organization but hopefully they will give them and the fans a rest.