Blackhawks notebook: Another attendance bump expected thanks to ‘Bedard Effect’

The Hawks expect their average attendance — which was 17,167 last season — to marginally increase again this season, with at least five games sold out. Their marketing campaign will also focus on the fan base.

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The Blackhawks expect strong attendance this season.

The Blackhawks expect strong attendance this season.

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The “Bedard Effect” will be evident in the stands at Blackhawks games this season.

Last season, the Hawks were encouraged by their higher-than-expected average attendance of 17,167 at the United Center.

This season, with fans energized by the arrival of No. 1 pick Connor Bedard, the team expects attendance to be marginally higher than that, chairman Danny Wirtz and business president Jaime Faulkner said Tuesday.

The UC still won’t be packed every night the way it was during the team’s dynasty era — the Hawks are working to get back to that point eventually — but at least five games are already expected to be sold out.

One of those sellouts will certainly be the home opener Oct. 21 against the defending champion Golden Knights, for which the get-in price on the secondary market already exceeds $100.

The Hawks also will lean away from the “Ready to Work” slogan they used last season in favor of a new marketing campaign focusing on their fans’ passion, Faulkner said, although the campaign will grow organically and won’t be formally launched.

“Last year, the fans were the MVP,” Wirtz said. “To see a team that was so low in the standings [draw that well], the dedication, loyalty and passion that came out in the stands represents what this next era will be about.

“It includes the fans, the Chicago community. It includes the players, the front office. [There’s] this unifying aspect. We’ll have superstars, but it’s going to be this more collective approach to winning that will be thematically part of what we’re going to do. It starts with the fans, and we’re so lucky to have a starting point that’s as strong as it is.”

No Bedard campaign

Indeed, the team’s marketing for 2023-24 will focus primarily on the fans, not on Bedard.

Faulkner admitted the team probably could’ve “exploited” Bedard’s popularity to boost sales even higher, but they don’t want to put any more pressure on the 18-year-old budding superstar than already exists.

“The world is going to put a big-enough spotlight on Connor Bedard,” Faulkner said. “We don’t need to do that. There are a lot of pieces in the locker room that you need to build a great team, [and] this is his first year in the league.

“The really great thing for us about the ‘Bedard Effect’ is . . . sports fans recognize Connor Bedard’s name, so it’s bringing new fans into hockey, not just to the Blackhawks.

‘‘We’re really excited about that.”

Chelios opens door

Chris Chelios’ No. 7 jersey-retirement ceremony on Feb. 25 will be the only Hawks jersey retirement this season, Faulkner said.

Although the Hawks will have quite a few numbers to retire in the coming years — and have embraced that fact, as evidenced by their new criteria for which players qualify — the ceremonies likely will be limited to one per year because of the momentousness of the honor and the extensive planning required before each ceremony.

But Faulkner and Wirtz confirmed that Chelios’ selection does open the door for other older-generation players to be considered for jersey retirement.

No names were given, but fans have long clamored for legends such as Steve Larmer and Doug Wilson.

The team also is mulling ideas for a Hawks-centric Hall of Fame or Ring of Honor to better celebrate and document the franchise’s history ahead of its 2025-26 centennial season.

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