Hard as it may be to believe, the Chicago Blackhawks are still in the red. That’s right, even after four deep post-season runs in the past six years with three Stanley Cup final appearances and two Stanley Cups, chairman Rocky Wirtz says the team is still trying to become profitable.
What has hindered the Blackhawks efforts to turn things around and become a team that is making money is its history. And while the six-year run of success the club is currently enjoying is outstanding and helping to turn things around from a business perspective, the damage done by a decade of poor on-ice performance and lack of fan support still has Chicago trying to turn a profit.
When asked about the fiscal matters behind the scenes ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final, Wirtz told media that the franchise is starting to become close to profitable and they were, “closing the gap.”
“It wasn’t a gap,” Wirtz added, according to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus. “It was a schism.”
Much of the Blackhawks’ failure to turn a profit stems from years past, including the dark period of the mid-1990s to mid-2000s. Over the 10 seasons spanning from 1997-98 to 2007-08, the Blackhawks made the post-season just once, losing in five games to the St. Louis Blues. Over that time, Chicago finished no higher than third in the Central Division and were often 10-plus points out of a playoff spot by the end of the campaign.
Lack of success or not, it would be hard to blame fans for not coming out to support a team they couldn’t watch on local TV. Under the rule of Wirtz’s father, Bill, the Blackhawks’ games weren’t broadcast on television and it wasn’t until Wirtz came to run the team following his father’s death in 2007 that the tide began to turn. Games were put on television, legendary players were brought back into the fold and now it looks as if, financially speaking, things are going to turn around.
As a team that often sits right up against the salary cap – for better or worse, though certainly Chicago fans aren’t complaining about the results thus far – the difficulty of turning a profit is also increased. However, while the team itself may not be turning a profit, revenue streams from elsewhere are helping the Wirtz’s keep the Blackhawks more than afloat.
In 2012-13, Wirtz said he didn’t see why the team couldn’t be profitable by 2015-16. With this season’s berth in the Stanley Cup final and the possibility of the Blackhawks capturing their third Stanley Cup in six years, it doesn’t seem like Wirtz will be too far off with his estimation.
And if fans from Tampa Bay want to head to Chicago this post-season, for Games 3 and 4 or beyond, to help the Blackhawks get back to turning a profit, Wirtz encouraged it ahead of Game 1.
“I can’t speak about Tampa Bay. But I can say that if there’s anyone from Tampa that wants to come to Chicago, we have a great city,” Wirtz said in a press conference before Game 1. “You’re welcome to our city. You can spend [your] money in our city. . .So please come. If I can say one thing to the fans of Tampa – come to Chicago, spend your money and leave a lot of green.”