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Jeremy Hobson: The National Hockey League playoffs begin this Saturday. The Philadelphia Flyers will face off against the Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago Public Radio’s Tony Arnold tells us how the Blackhawks went from a team that couldn’t even get on TV to Stanley Cup finalists.
Tony Arnold: The Blackhawks have struggled for years. They’ve gone without the Stanley Cup since 1961, longer than any other NHL team. But in a city like Chicago, fans are used to losing. So even non-Blackhawks fans like Phil Peterson are pulling for the team.
Phil Peterson: It’s got the city fired up and I’m all about it.
Peterson has a high opinion of Rocky Wirtz, the owner of the Blackhawks. And that speaks volumes of how Wirtz has changed the perception of the team. The previous owner, Bill Wirtz — Rocky’s father — refused to allow home games to be televised. His thinking being nobody would want to pay for tickets if they could watch the game for free on TV. Peterson says that’s all changed now.
Peterson: Rocky came in and he realized to get the city fired up, you gotta put them on TV.
Allen Sanderson agrees. He’s a sports economist with the University of Chicago:
Allen Sanderson: I think it’s televising games and some much better marketing.
The Blackhawks hired one of the top marketers for a team that’s used to losing: the Chicago Cubs. As a result, the Blackhawks developed a new vibe, like playing the same catchy song after every Blackhawks’ goal. They also recruited young, exciting players like Duncan Keith. He recently took a hockey puck to the mouth, then showed his toughness.
Duncan Keith: I don’t know. It’s not out of the ordinary, I guess, when a hockey player loses his teeth.
Whatever combination of changes the Blackhawks have made, Chicagoan Phil Peterson says he’s a believer. He’s picking the Hawks to beat the Flyers in five games.
In Chicago, I’m Tony Arnold for Marketplace.
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