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Blackhawks literally painting the town red
By Mike Spellman | Daily Herald Staff

Divers at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium show their support for the Blackhawks.

 

Courtesy of Shedd Aquarium

With the Western Conference Finals next, Chicago is all dressed up to cheer on the Blackhawks.

 

Courtesy of Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago's skyline goes red to cheer on the Blackhawks in the playoffs.

 

Courtesy of Shedd Aquarium

The famous Picasso sculpture outside the Daley Center displays a Blackhawks helmet to remind everyone the team is still in the playoffs.

 

Courtesy of Chicago Blackhawks

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Published: 5/14/2009 5:25 PM

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A night after clinching their Western Conference semifinal series against Vancouver, Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook and some of his teammates went to the Bruce Springsteen concert and a funny thing happened.

They got noticed.

"It's definitely different, but it's a lot of fun," Seabrook said. "You go out for dinner or a concert like the other night and a bunch of people recognized us, which was pretty neat."

It's not an isolated case.

At Monday night's clincher, the Hawks went over the 1 million mark in attendance, breaking a franchise record.

Viewership on Comcast SportsNet has skyrocketed during the playoffs. CSN delivered its highest Blackhawks show ever on Monday night - a 7.82 household rating, attracting approximately 273,145 households for the entire game, and peaking at 12.6 during the 10:30 p.m. quarter hour.

At the Shedd Aquarium, divers are wearing Blackhawks jerseys, the Picasso has been outfitted with a Hawks helmet, the antennas on the Sears/Willis Tower were lit in red earlier in the playoffs, and there are Blackhawks banners hanging along the streets near City Hall and the United Center.

It looks like it's becoming a Hawks town.

Again.

"I played all through the 1980s and this was a hockey town then," said former Hawks defenseman Jack O'Callahan. "I was walking around outside the rink the other night and I said to my wife, 'It's funny, the last time when I was around and it was like this I never saw what goes on outside the rink with people lining up and the excitement of just walking into the arena.'

"I was always in the locker room so you don't really experience what's going on outside before the game - just the whole buzz created around the city.

"It's great. It's back and it's special."

And it's even made sports talk radio alter its menu from main courses of baseball, basketball and everything Bears to now include a dash of Hawk talk.

"It's great to see that now," O'Callahan said. "This city has spent an awful lot of time talking about football and not hockey. The Blackhawks guys have been somewhat under the radar, and hockey itself has been under the radar. It's been unfortunate."

Now folks can't get enough of all things Blackhawks, and few know that better than Hawks media relations maven Brandon Faber, who is quite the popular guy these days.

"The demand for media interviews and tickets has been even greater than expected, but thankfully I have an unlimited text messaging plan," Faber said. "We feel fortunate to be in this position, and our players and staff have been very accommodating with their time off the ice.

"It's a fun position to be in at this time of year."

With the Hawks set to begin the Western Conference Finals this weekend and only eight games from their goal of winning the Stanley Cup, the fun factor figures to ratchet up a notch or two as Blackhawks fever spreads even more.

"There's a ton of kids that play hockey in this town, there's a ton of adults that play hockey in this town," O'Callahan said. "Hockey may have gone underground for many years from a Blackhawks perspective, but hockey has still grown.

"And now that the Hawks are who they are and playing like they are - it's kind of uncovered this sense of pride that this city and state really has for hockey."