As the Chicago Blackhawks attempt to increase their points streak to 23 games Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild, McHenry County watering holes will look to continue a streak of their own: another night with a packed bar.
The Blackhawks' success of not losing in regulation for 22 consecutive games has led to booming business for local sports bars. Each win means another busy night with patrons eagerly watching to see if the streak continues.
“We have a full bar every night the Hawks play,” said Keith Puralewski, manager of Moretti's Ristorante and Pizzeria in Lake in the Hills. “It's been phenomenal.”
Moretti's provides discounted wings during games to anyone wearing Blackhawks gear. Puralewski said the energy at the restaurant has been palpable.
“It's reminiscent of Bears games,” he said.
At the Buffalo Wild Wings in Algonquin, General Manager Dave Dekker said his restaurant has seen about 20 to 25 percent more people during this hockey season compared to last.
“All in all [the streak] has definitely been good for business,” Dekker said.
Some restaurants were concerned that the lockout and shortened season would hurt business. Many hockey fans were dismayed it took so long for players and owners to agree on a deal, and the fear was it would discourage people from turning out to watch games.
Brian Allen, manager of the Buffalo Wild Wings in Crystal Lake, said business was slow at the start of the season but picked up as the streak continued.
“I think people were discouraged because of the [lockout],” he said. “The die-hard fans would come in, but the season started out pretty slow. The streak has been a big help for business.”
Halftime Bar & Grill manager Joe Huemann also noted that the lockout presented some initial concerns for business, but things quickly picked up once the Blackhawks got on a roll.
“It's almost like it's playoff hockey,” Huemann said of the turnout at his Johnsburg restaurant. “Even with late game start times, people are still coming out even during the week.”
Halftime has deals on food during Blackhawks games and has even organized a bus trip to the United Center earlier in the season to take in a game. When asked if he thinks bar traffic will decrease when the Hawks finally lose, Huemann doesn't think so.
“The streak is going to end sometime. But I think people will keep coming back. With the short season, people are really into the games.”
The interest in the streak is showing in TV ratings as well. Sunday's dramatic 2-1 shootout victory against the Red Wings was NBC's best single-game ratings ever, and it was the highest rated Blackhawks game ever on NBC, with the exception of the Winter Classic at Wrigley Field, according to sportsmediawatch.com
The Hawks have been shattering Comcast SportsNet Chicago ratings all season. Sixteen of the top 17 highest-rated regular season Hawks games on CSN have occurred this year, according to CSN.