There is a ton of hockey in the Chicago area, with the Blackhawks as hot as they are, upper and lower juniors in the vicinity, and the cold, cold winters. The ECHL made a go of it a while back, but it didn’t take. I even saw some people playing on a frozen pond here, even though it’s only been below freezing for a week or so. I’m not talking about a lake in the woods, I mean a small pond next to an apartment complex. The region is no stranger to the game
The Chicago Wolves have been around since 1994, starting as part of the IHL. When the IHL folded, some of the teams went to the ECHL (like the Cincinnati Cyclones) and some went to the AHL. Hence the Wolves having won two Turner Cups (IHL Champions) and two Calder Cups (AHL Champions).
Staying power in any minor league means you have to be successful at the box office, and that means being successful on the ice. Four championships aside, the Wolves have never had a season with fewer points than games played. They have always played the equivalent of over .500 hockey. That success also translates into high ticket prices and $15 parking. Hey, welcome to Chicago. And welcome to the Allstate Arena.
Let’s get this out of the way early. I already mentioned the $15 parking fee. I loathe to pay a ton for parking at an arena. I get it, you have to make your money anywhere you can, but charging that much for parking in an open lot is ridiculous. The ticket for the game was twice that. So to get in the door was $45. For a minor league game.
You wouldn’t even be allowed to take a casual stroll past the United Center when the Blackhawks are playing for $45, but I can’t think of a time I’ve paid this much to go to a minor league hockey game. Some places are starting to get up there in price, but this was the most. I was not pleased.
But the fans came out to see their team. And they were playing in-state rivals, the Rockford IceHogs, so I figured it was going to be a packed house. Not quite. The lower bowl was pretty full. The upper deck was perhaps a third full. A good turnout (official attendance was 10621, but that can mean very little), but at a game between cross-state rivals at a high level, I did expect more.
A few things to point out about this place. The ceiling is wood, and curved. Not a big deal, but the wood beams extend to the tops of the upper concourse. It’s a dingy place, but the wood helps make up for it. The seats are tiny and the rows are thin. I squeezed past a few patrons getting in an out of the aisle, and probably brushed a little close for anyone’s comfort.
When I was going up the stairs to my seat, a little girl was complaining to her father that she wanted an elevator. No luck here. If there are any elevators to the upper decks, I didn’t see them.
But it’s a busy concourse, so it would be easy to miss.
Things would be much more crowded later. Lines for concessions were long.
Throughout the concourse, banners celebrate past players for the Wolves. Including this one.
RIP Dan Snyder.
Aside from the usual two points, at stake was the Illinois Lottery Cup. Whoever has the better series record in the regular season walks away with this beauty.
Here is something I’d never seen before.
“Buddy, you bought it, you better drink it. That’s alcohol abuse if you leave it.” True fact: I misspelled “alcohol” and rather than auto-correct, I got the spelling from the back of this guy’s shirt. One H in alcohol.
To start things off, we had some fire and fireworks.
You might wonder, won’t shooting fireworks over the ice lead to refuse being left on the ice? You would be right.
That done, it was time to start the game. Click on any photo to make it bigger. Action!
The game started with some solid hitting. As it went along, the hitting relaxed a bit.
Both goalies were solid.
At the end of the first, we had no score. Intermission entertainment was some of the funnest youth hockey I’ve seen at one of these games. The kids and the crowd were in to it.
Some of the banners hanging from the rafters.
Back for the second period.
I couldn’t figure out what he was looking at. Face off is in front of you, big guy.
So much chaos, I didn’t even bother to straighten the photo. That’s a lot of chaos!
Look out, Lines.
Second period ended with no score. Let’s head to the concourse.
That’s Skates. He looks insane. The ice girls look bored. The child looks… er….
Let’s just get back for the third. Still tied at nothing.
But not for long. The puck come in front of the net.
Bit of a rebound in front.
Shift it to the backhand…
Bend the twine. That’s a good hockey goal.
Notice number 8 in red in front of the net. We will talk about him in a bit.
The Wolves celebrate!
This wolf celebrates!
Is that a My Little Pony? Hey, I’m not here to judge.
The IceHogs got a long five-on-three that included a four-minute double minor with six minutes left in the game but could not cash in. With a little over a minute left, they pulled their goalie. The Wolves got possession and took three shots at the net, being blocked or missing each time.
And then… then…. remember I said to remember number 8? I didn’t have my camera ready because the IceHogs had just gained possession in their own end, and were about to skate it out. What could possibly happen? Svedberg (our number 8) had the puck and passed it back to his own guy, who was in front of the IceHogs empty net. Inches before the puck got to his teammate’s stick, it hit some small chunk of ice and hopped over the stick… and into his own net.
2-0 Wolves. Oh, Svedberg.
How much does it hurt? His own teammate scooted down. Ouch.
Wait, was he sitting on a folding chair?
Of course, someone has to be credited with the goal. That would be this guy, who thought it was hilarious.
As did the rest of the arena.
That was the final. Wolves win it, 2-0. The game sheet is here.
Before they skated off the ice, every player threw a t-shirt into the crowd.
These guys can hit the upper deck with a shirt.
Overall a fun game, and I had the best seat in the house (upper deck center, first row). Still, as expensive as it was, I had a hard time shaking the feeling I was being gouged. There aren’t any deals to be found here ($8 pucks for example), so stock up on cash if you are coming to the game. They did happen to have their midseason merchandise sale, which drew a lot of attention, as you would expect considering how much everything else cost.
Was it worth it? I hate to encourage overcharging, but sure, why not. The game was fun. For my own sake, I don’t want to think about the bang for the buck. The buck won this time.