Bernstein: Hawks’ Magic Long Gone

By Dan Bernstein–

A little over a year ago, I was standing in a United Center suite, talking to a top Blackhawks official as we surveyed the scene in front of us.

Patrick Kane had just zoomed past a Detroit defender, delighting the sellout crowd. The air crackled with anticipation and a shared understanding that something special was possible, that night and beyond.

“Look at this,” I said. “Did you ever think you’d see this, so soon?”

“We have a long way to go,” he answered. “We have a lot of work to do.”

I assumed then that he was talking more about winning the Stanley Cup than anything else. I was aware of the salary-cap crunch that loomed, but not thinking about it actively.

What I had no idea about were the financial difficulties occurring for the Hawks as we spoke: they were bleeding money, using dollars from other Wirtz-family businesses to cover operating expenses. According to a Tribune report in July, these “internal capital calls” were made several times last season when the team ran out of cash. Rocky Wirtz estimated in April that it would take “four or five years” before the team could break even and look to turn a profit.

The big picture was daunting to those who could see it, even then, amid the mania of resurgence into the Chicago sports consciousness.

We know what came next. In what now, upon recall, seems like a show we watched on fast-forward, the Hawks marched to a championship, threw a huge civic party, kept celebrating for weeks, traded away half the roster and started the next season.

Ok, so that happened.

As it turns out, the Stanley Cup is not the Ark of the Covenant, or the Holy Grail (at least from what I know about them from Indiana Jones movies). It can make people very happy for a short period of time, but it cannot alter reality.

The Blackhawks’ play can still remind us of last season, but not often enough to this point. Reminders are just as likely brought by opposing rosters, with each next foe seemingly employing one of the smiling, badly-bearded lugs who held the cup aloft downtown.

It has been a long time since we have seen stories about television viewership – a regular subject of team press releases the last two years. There’s a reason for that.

The Hawks are in a better position than they were in the dark days, no doubt. Their title run seeded the ground to cultivate a new generation of fans. They can make things pop again with a desperation-fueled, late-season winning streak and a playoff spot.

But those stubborn, large-scale headwinds remain, even if their on-ice fortunes improve this year.

The effect of the hard salary cap was brutally obvious, causing the stark remodeling project that is still ongoing. The overall lack of NHL popularity means that league TV revenue is a fraction of what teams get in other major sports, reported to be less than $10 million per team, per year. Money has to come from local sources: gate receipts and TV/radio sales.

That moment in the UC last year seems like forever ago. Gone is the intoxicating atmosphere of something building, becoming, accelerating and culminating.

Kane, perhaps symbolically, is gimping around the ice with a lingering ankle injury. His production is down. He and his teammates have a lot of work to do.

I understand, now, what I was being told that day.

bernstein 90x130 Bernstein: Hawks Magic Long Gone

Dan Bernstein

Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM.
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  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Thank you Dan.
    I have been worried about the Hawks all season.
    Time is getting short.

    Also, I hope this road-trip doesn’t mess up Da Boo.


    Wirtz (I knew there was no “e”). . . .

    To make things worse, Media com, generally, picks up WGN (heh heh, ah MER ic ca). They show Becker, or How I Met Your Mother.
    Really WGN. Really? End result: same amount of games on TV as in “the dark times.”
    Keep Byfuglien, and they could still be on the playoff schedule.
    This league needs to realize that more west coast action (with their (9:00 starts) can’t prop up this league. Casual fans will not tolerate it.
    Supposedly, casual fans will watch Tennessee vs. Jacksonville. I’d rather watch Becker

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      Yeah, losing Buff and his big butt in front of the net was a huge loss.

      • SPAULDING!

        “come on, Simone,
        let’s talk about your big but.”

  • Gentleman RaRa

    “Gone is the intoxicating atmosphere…”


    • Jay's Insulin Pump


  • Vuc

    Hockey sucks, talk more Bulls or Sox!

  • Murph

    On my show, we will be previewing, Cubs spring training, and taking your calls on why Alfonzo Soriano, should be leading off. That and we will have a Murph momment, Swami Murph, will drop by, and’ The Browns Caller of the Show’.

    • Hammer

      “Say it like you mean it….”

    • Larry Horse's Arse


      That is frozen in time like a fossil.

      Clap Clap.

      Hello I must be going.

      • Plyers

        It’s not as easy as it looks, trying to fit a 4 hour show into a measly 2 hour time slot!

  • bronzo

    Excellent blog today. Besides Buff,,losing Burish and Ladd has hurt them also. Remember they replaced about 1/2 of a hockey team almost overnight…including their starting golalie.. Hossa, Keith, Seabrook and Kane are also not playing at the high levels they were last year. although they are 11th in theiir conference only a few points separate them from the rest .

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      Superb analysis bronzo…your summary is better than Bernsie’s.
      The cap was the killer for this year.
      I’m glad they went “all in” last year despite looming cap problems.

      • Beverly Brewmaster

        One reason for optimism: take a look at goal differentials; the Hawks are fourth best in the West, only three behind L.A. and two behind Detroit. I don’t mean to discount their problems, but even so they’re still one of the better teams in the East and should emerge as one of the top eight.

      • Denver Deadite

        Yeah, if they didn’t take the shot last year, they’d be in the same boat right now but without a Cup to show for it.

        I’m more curious about how far away they are from more financial stability and the cap not being as much of a looming presence.

      • Jay's Insulin Pump

        I agree with you for the most part guys. But, I would be hesitant about putting together another big money team after what happened to the Hawks this year. I agree they made hockey fun again in this town and for that I thank them, but they need more income (more true fans). Everyone was a hockey fan during the playoffs last year, but where are they now? No one shows them any love during Bears season , and as soon as that’s over it’s “well the Hawks suck, onto baseball.” They had a full boat of fans for all of a few months, not enough time to really rake it in. As Bernstein pointed out, a couple of the very few ways they make their money is by attendance and merch sales. And while I don’t have the figures in front of me, I can only assume both are down significantly.

        Put a consistently good team (we don’t need the best there ever was) on the ice for a few years straight, make the playoffs every year and you’ll be helping develop a whole new generation of Blackhawk hockey fans. Maybe after the fans make a commitment to the team, the team can go “big money” and make that commitment back to us.

      • bronzo

        Absolutely Larry…they had to take their shot and they did it!! Their paying for it now but hey won the Cup and made hockey fun again in this town. I truly believe the Bowman brain trust will put together another cup worthy team sooner than later.


    There seems to be chemistry issues, not to mention the continuing inability of the Blackhawks to kill off penalties without allowing the opposition to score on the power play. As a result, there’s a real good chance that the Blackhawks could soon join the 1995 New Jersey Devils & 2006 Carolina Hurricanes in not defending their Stanley Cup it took 49 years to earn a season ago.

    As for the Bulls, what started with a promising and impressive start to their 5-game road trip with an easy win over the Clippers at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles could be turning into a big disappointment as well. They morphed into the Bulls’ team that couldn’t buy a bucket Christmas Day vs. the Knicks in New York with a 4th quarter collapse in Oakland vs. an inferior Golden State Warriors team that seemed to beat the Bulls at their own defensive game. Last night in their 5th straight loss to the Blazers in Portland’s Rose Garden, they had no answer for LaMarcus Aldridge, who burned our Bulls for 42 in a 109-103 Portland home win. For the Bulls to end the trip a winner, they’ve got to get their defense tightened tomorrow vs. the new, old look Jazz in Salt Lake City and vs. Chris Paul and the Hornets Saturday in New Orleans. Easier said than done.

  • AT3374

    It’s getting close to the All star break sio most teams are looking forward to that time off . The mighty Boo will be just fine and ready for the seconda half but Rose needs more help and with Jokim coming back , that might be the energy boost this team needs

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    This is only the 14th post of the day.
    Dan you are slipping.
    Today’s blog SHOULD have been either,
    (1) “Hawks’ Problems Farve’s Fault” or
    (2) “Lovie & Bears PR Ineptitude With Cutler Injury Cause Hawks Collapse.”

    Either would be good for 125 posts.

    • AnneS


      Since I’m a newbie around here, is this typical for this blog? Is the low meatball ratio (in regards to a subject other than football) representative of the real Chicago sports world?

      • Jon, Montgomery

        in depth hockey blog: 60 posts, tops

        unthoughtful football blog: 120+ posts

        football is always king.

        we have lost alot of great posters over the years due to the website changes, i wish we had them back, may the rest in peace.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        I believe so Anne.
        The only Bernsie vs. Meatball topic in hockey is “fighting”.
        Other than that, you get the Meatballs out in droves for Da Bearsss.
        Generally, in my opinion, you get the most intelligent posts regarding the Hawks and Da Boo because people who like hockey and hoops really, really know what they are talking about.

        Last year I really learned a lot of hockey from some very smart people who post here.

      • Jon, Montgomery


        (me in thought: proof read you idi0t!)

    • bronzo


      That was very funny Larry!…..

      Well done

  • LP

    I love when Dan Bernstein writes about hockey…he doesn’t talk about it, doesn’t know much about it, doesn’t care about it…until things go bad…and then he LOVES it…stick with the awful NBA, Dan…I think the Bulls still have 15 times out left

    • Spoon

      Right, cause he never said anything about hockey last year…

      oh wait..

  • Jay's Insulin Pump

    The money is not the only issue. Even though we were forced to get rid of a lot of valuable talent, I feel like the Hawks did the best they could. Especially when you remember the “offer sheet” deals that really put a kink in our plans to re-sign certain players. They are simply not playing up to their own standards. Each individual on this team needs to evaluate where they are, and see where they need to be to make this team successful. And kill a power play for Christ’s sake.

    Losing those players in free agency was a hurdle, not a brick wall.

  • Buff Z Nuff

    Even though “we” were forced to get rid of a lot of valuable talent, I feel like the Hawks did the best they could.

    JIP is a member of the “Indian?”

    • Jay's Insulin Pump

      If you had any idea what the Hawks were working with, and the demands of (and for) Stanley Cup winning athletes, you would see that they had no choice but to cut ties with many of the players that you and I love.

      I am not here to criticize the back loaded contracts given to the players that forced us to retool this year. Without them, we never would have had that amazing team last season anyway (and surely no cup). I’m simply evaluating the players we kept, and I believe in many cases, I would have made the same decisions.

      You don’t know how the salary cap works. Clearly. If you want to propose a way we could have kept everyone and still stayed under the cap, I would love to hear it. People are going to be upset, but that’s the way it is.

      • Buffs Backside

        The ladder, JIP; at least you finally caught it…. KANER!

      • Jay's Insulin Pump

        UGH, if you were just making fun of my use of “we”, then I apologize. I deserve that.

        I read this blog expecting the worst, no offense meant to anyone that gets in the way of my one-track mind.


  • Lovie Howell

    Boo-Hoo, poor Hawks. if they can’t afford to own the team, then they should sell the team. I love the Hawks. I hate what they did to the fans for years. I never left them due to my love of the sport and the Indian head. It’s been a nice ride for a while. Every now and then you go down a bumpy road. This is that time. They will re-tool.

    • Spoon

      You act like selling a hockey team is a simple endeavor and that anyone would want to buy one. Looking at the financial state of other teams, you should be less concerned about ‘boo-hoo Hawks’ and be more concerned over the future of the sport you claim to enjoy. By all accounts it’s not exactly in good shape nationally either.

  • Jon, Montgomery

    thank you Dan, finally a blog that triggers my brain.

    I hate to say it, but with the tough schedule we have left and the tough competition that’s in the western conference, i don’t think the hawks will make the playoffs. I don’t know hockey like a pro, but I know the basics, and this team just doesn’t have the same mojo that it had last year, and it’s kind of sad, the team that we all loved so much last year, taken away by bettman’s hard salary cap. we all thought the core of this team would be enough to carry this team for years to come, but so far, it seems like the role players were a much bigger part of the success of this team than any of us imagined. not that this team is bad, this hawks team is still capable of being a contender for years to come in my opinion, but it hasn’t shown yet.

    • AnneS

      I agree with you Jon.
      I really don’t think they will make the playoffs this year either. The Hawks have an amazing group of core guys, they are awesome building blocks. (Don’t underestimate coach Q either).
      My point is yes the Hawks are suffering this year due to those haunting salary cap issues but they are not down and out. With some good decision making they will be fine.
      I am all about the indian.
      (It would be nice if those west coast games were on earlier)


    I think the Blackhawks are in the situation they are in because of a number of bad contracts and bad money that former General Manager Dale Tallon handed out before the Hawks won the Cup. Those bad contracts cost Tallon his job and I think because of the NHL’s rigid salary cap, current G.M. Stan Bowman was forced to make a bunch of trades I don’t think he really wanted to make. Bowman had very little choice but to say goodbye to Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Antti Niemi and several other guys that helped the Hawks hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup last spring.

    • Denver Deadite

      Agreed, 18. People may scratch their heads over why Tallon was fired, but considering this past off-season, and the fact that they are still struggling to stay under the cap, it was quite justified.

      And for anybody that doesn’t understand it: the cap is a hard cap, like the NFL had before it ended under the soon-to-expire CBA. There is no ‘going over and paying a fine’ because you want to.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        I agree about Tallon.

      • Jay's Insulin Pump

        Well said, both of you. People also need to realize that even though the Hawks can operate just below the cap, that it still an ass load of money being paid out compared to what’s coming in. That’s just the way it is right now.

  • Jon, Montgomery

    i do see that a hawks blog doesn’t generate as many posters as a football blog, which is understandable, but i don’t care. at least it was a good blog and not a failed attempt at bashing an old enemy, (see yesterday’s blog).

    don’t know if this helps, but attention 670 the score WSCR!


    thank you.

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      WSCR….I TOTALLY agree with what Jon said about the podcasts.
      Please pay attention for all of our sakes.

  • Lovie Howell

    Well I don’t know what they charge for tickets outside of Chicago but the price keeps many out of the building and leaves the future fans to watch on TV. Hockey has been a sport for the true fan of the game for years. Now and then fans jump on board when the teams are riding high. many fall off the bandwagon as the team does not do as well. We just hope that some of the new fans are there to stay. To many teams? Salary to high to justify? My sarchastic Boo-Hoo is just as I stated. They sank their own ship. It takes time to rebuild. I do think that if the team were for sale that there would be buyers.

    Do you think that showing games on VS helps the league? Maybe now that Comcast and NBC are the same, they will work out some viable TV times?

    • AnneS

      Yeah, who can afford to take their family to a Hawks game these days? That is how you sell your product and ensure it’s longevity when it comes to hockey.

  • Jon, Montgomery

    by the way, congratulations to the cleveland cavaliers, last night they set a NBA record for most consecutive losses, 25 in a row. i know varejao is out, but the way this team plays is pathetic, i can’t believe that lebron meant that much to that team, seriously, you’ve gotta do better than this. byron scott has lost all credibility in my book, i don’t care if you’re coaching a d-league team, 25 losses in a row and a 8-44 record overall is inexcusable. maybe lebron was right, (even though he says he doesn’t know what contraction means), that the league does need teams contracted. teams like the kings, timberwolves, raptors and cavaliers, need to be gone, or at least disappear until they get good again.

  • vp

    Too painful to watch these guys. I understand the salary cap but they unloaded a few too many who should have been included in the core. What a shame.

  • Murph

    (whisper voice) hey everybody, i’m tired of being a slave, which is why i am going to try to escape. earlier today, when i was cleaning the dishes, i snuck a knife and brought it with me, and i am now tied to the post again. soon, after i’m certain everybody is asleep i will cut this rope, sneak into the house, steal some currency, and be on my way. hopefully this plan works, i really want to get out of here.

    i’ll continue to update you faithful bloggers on my travels, wish me luck!

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      Murph, be very, very careful.
      In other words, take allll the time you need… rush getting back.


    According to the online schedule, Jason Goff follows DePaul’s game vs. Cincinnati at Allstate Arena tonight around 8:30p-ish on 670 The SCORE. What’s more painful to watch these days, hoops fans? Head coach Oliver Purnell’s Blue Demons continue to be in over their heads in the tough Big East Conference or the Cleveland Cavaliers continue to give the NBA record book for futility a workout?

  • Jay's Insulin Pump

    I find it easier to watch the Demons. Purnell is the real deal, and he’s here for one reason – to turn this team around. And he will. At least there’s some hope.

    The Cavs are a lost cause. They’ll get a great draft pick out of this, which will only allow them to waste the early years of another star’s career. Not only hard to watch, but genuinely sad.

    • Maybe Mike North Knows

      ssshhhhhhh…. don’t tell Dan Gilbert that; by his math they are closer to a title than southern Floridas team…

  • Jon, Montgomery

    just a heads up, Dan said he’s going to read the baseball prospectus projections for this season, sometime soon in the show.

  • Jon, Montgomery

    dan-o just read the preliminary baseball prospectus projections, i didn’t ctach all of them, but i wrote down the two divisions that matter to us folks around here.

    again, these are only the preliminary projections, not the final projections, they will run the data again before they release the final projections.

    AL Central:

    1. MIN = 95 – 67
    2. CHW = 89 – 73
    3. DET = 82 – 80
    4. CLE = 67 – 95
    5. KC = 66 -96

    NL Central:

    1. CIN = 93 – 69
    2. STL = 85 – 77
    3. HOU = 76 – 86
    4. MIL = 75 – 87
    5. CHC = 70 – 92
    6. PIT = 55 – 107

    • Mike Norths Investment Team

      At a QUICK glance, seems reasonable.

  • AnneS

    I enjoy when Matty goes after Dan…funny.

    • Murphs Mustache

      Couldn’t agree more Anne; really frustrates Dan on occasion.

      • Jon, Montgomery

        by cracky!

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