The Wolves have been around long enough to have three generations of fans. Saying that out loud clearly meant something to chairman Don Levin.
“That’s amazing to me,” said Levin, who founded the team with Buddy Meyers and Grant Mulvey. “People came [to games] — we knew them, and then they had kids and they came, and now the kids have kids and they’re coming. And you’re saying ‘Gee, it’s really different. It’s really being part of those people’s lives.’ ”
The Wolves began the celebrations for their upcoming 25th anniversary season on Monday by unveiling a series of 6-foot goalie masks along Michigan Avenue. Each mask features a different design worn by a former Wolves goalie. There also was a laser light show in Pioneer Court.
Once a curiosity and an alternative to the meandering Blackhawks and a locked-out NHL, the Wolves have survived the Hawks’ renaissance and secured their own place on the Chicago sports scene.
Nearly a quarter-century from their Oct. 1, 1994, debut, those celebratory events marked how the Wolves have built their fanbase and developed into a well-recognized part of the area’s landscape despite being a minor-league team in a city with five established major-league franchises.
“I think it’s incredible. It’s what we wanted. We wanted to be part of the community,” Levin said. “For me, being that is what we always wanted. That’s what we are. I don’t want any more than that. A couple more championships, but beyond that, if we can be what we’ve been, then I’m a happy guy.”
General manager Wendell Young, who was a goalie on the 1994-95 team and helped them win two International Hockey League championships, said the Wolves still are driven by the same things from their inception.
“We’re all about winning, we’re all about community, we’re all about fan enjoyment at our game,” Young said. “Nothing’s changed over the years. We have the same vision.”
Young came to the Wolves so he could play during the lockout and thought he’d spend six months with the team. Twenty-five seasons later, he’s still around.
“It’s a ton of pride for our organization [to celebrate],” Young said. “If I’m Don Levin, I’m very proud of what he has built.”
The Chicago Bandits open the National Pro Fastpitch championship series Thursday against the USSSA Pride. The best-of-five series will played at The Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Rosemont.
The Bandits, whose 37-10 regular-season record was second to the 42-5 Pride, will be playing for their third league title in four seasons.