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Column: Blackhawks Plans for Fifth Third Expansion Boon for Local Hockey

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There’s something to be said for playing where the pros do. The Blackhawks’ plans to expand Fifth-Third is the crown jewel of growing hockey in the area. So too, will the various programs they plan on tweaking that will be there.

In short, it’s a tremendous chance to explode the sport locally as the Blackhawks rebuild with a lot of young talent bursting at the seams.

A Chance For the Blackhawks To Help Build Out Local Hockey Even More

Even as a little kid when we were still in Michigan, hockey was just part of the culture. Perhaps it’s because Canada is just a quick jaunt over the Ambassador Bridge. Maybe it’s because I had hockey crazed uncles. Hockey was always ubiquitous there, with the small towns dotting the thumb had a rink of their own.

I was shocked, then, that high school hockey was club and essentially “one of those other sports” as football and basketball ruled the local landscape. The expense of the game disqualified it from my family’s budget–whether it was in Illinois or Michigan. But it didn’t prevent me from teaching myself how to skate, stickhandle, and pick the corners of the net.

The Chicagoland area had pockets of for sure, but it wasn’t until Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane burst onto the scene that local hockey increased with interest. It helped that the Blackhawks were squared away as if they were an embarrassing family member, too.

Now there’s an opportunity to really make more of it.

Blackhawks President of Business Operations Jaime Faulkner was very up front for Chicago’s investment. The release included this quote:

“The Chicago Blackhawks have a responsibility to be an active participant in the health and growth of the amateur hockey community. We have spent last year building plans, programs and relationships that allow us to support the full ecosystem of amateur hockey, and we are doubling down our efforts alongside our hockey families, rink partners, leagues and clubs to improve the amateur hockey system and experience in Illinois.”

In short, growing out interest in the sport even more.

It Goes Beyond Local Hockey, Too

With the expansion, the Blackhawks would have two additional sheets of hockey as well as a community rink first. But here’s the key from the release (bold included by me):

A key goal of the 135,000-square-foot expansion is to establish Fifth Third Arena as a world-class community ice arena and ultimately become a hub for Midwest hockey by hosting youth and amateur hockey clubs, figure skating, as well as national and international competitions and more as one of the rinks will be able to host championship games for up to 1,500 patrons.

International? As in World Juniors? Talk about enhancing the hockey footprint in Chicago and the state. The big deal here is that the Blackhawks are doing the wise thing and doubling down on their investment. Grow the talent. Support the game.

They already have a number of programs and teams playing there already. Imagine if the new generational player ends up getting his hockey start thank to the Blackhawks investment.

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