Friday, April 06, 2012

Hockey in Hoffman Estates Derailed Again

While the spirit of hockey has come back in the Chicagoland area, the fact that some professional leagues try to make a third team work hasn't provided the turn-out some would have thought. For the second time in five season, Craig Drecktrah had to cease operations of a third professional team in the Chicago area. First it was the Chicago Hounds of the old UHL and today, the Chicago Express of the ECHL. Both teams played only one season.

The Express were a team who averaged last in the league for attendance, averaging just over 2,500 in the 8,632 seat Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. Also, the Express would have a hard time to actually get 1,000 people into the arena during their week-night games. Drecktrah seemed to have the same issue with the Hounds, mostly for the fact that the Sears Centre management wanted to give the team primarily weekday dates rather than the weekend, which would set the team up for failure for the most part due to work and school and such.

However, with this being the second straight hockey team to fail in that arena and area; it makes you question if it's the arena or the fact there's a lot of teams in the area. Albeit, the Blackhawks are 30 minutes away from Hoffman Estates and the Wolves, based in Rosemont, are 20 minutes away; there could be too many options for hockey fans to choose from and stretch their dollar on. While many hockey fans would love to see as many teams around them as possible, the ability to spend that much on three teams in professional leagues in such a small area. The perk for it all is that it was three different leagues, three different affiliations, and many different teams coming in-- which the variety is great, but again-- as affordable as minor league hockey can be, hard to have loyalty to one side of things or another.

More over than the fans is that you have to actually wonder how viable big metropolitan areas are for multiple hockey teams. Especially in Chicago, where the Wolves would often beat out the attendance of the Blackhawks in the mid-2000s, but trying to force a third team in there just seems to be a set-up for failure right from the start. Heck, the most hardened hockey fans would have issues trying to support all their hockey teams. For a time, the Toronto area had an issue with the NHL and AHL with the Toronto Roadrunners in the 2003-04 season (they would move to Edmonton for the 2004-05 season) and then when the Marlies came to play with the 2005-06, but the Marlies have seemed to have gotten more interest in them and fended for themselves pretty well.

If a Canadian city has difficulties with maintaining two pro hockey teams, is there a hockey city in the US that can handle two or more professional teams within a 30-mile span of each other. The New York City area has their allegiances drawn, Boston would probably have their own team's pride that they might not be able to deal with another team, even in a minor league format. So far, the Chicago area seems to be a two-team town and any third team would be hard-pressed to not only find an arena to work with them, but also garner the attention to take away from the two top teams and make themselves profitable.

While it stinks for those loyalist to the Express for that one season, it's hard for them to not be without a team, even though it was for just a season. Plus, it's hard to build a fanbase for a team when they actually only have one season to get fans into the building and make the numbers work. That said, some times the diluting of a sport in a centralized location may be a great idea in theory, but the execution never yield the desired results. You can blame the owner, the arena, the lack of attention overall-- but no matter how you slice it-- whoever is to blame doesn't matter, as it leaves a black-eye on the team, league, and area for not being able to sustain a team in a locale for more than just a season.

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