YES, Hull and Mikita are deserving of United Center statues

It was written recently here on ChicagoNow that the Blackhawks' decision to erect statues of franchise legends Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita outside the United Center would be irresponsible and inappropriate.

The argument is based on the often-used and miscalculated idea that the Blackhawks play second fiddle at the United Center. Here is an excerpt from the article encapsulating the argument: 
"This honor just does not fit because the United Center is the "House That Jordan Built."  It is not the fault of the Blackhawks that they share the same arena as the Chicago Bulls, but why put statues outside a building that the Blackhawks were never relevant in and will never get the same acclaim as the Chicago Bulls?  Without Michael Jordan, who are we to say that building would be standing on the west side of the city today?  It is very possible that without Michael Jordan the old Chicago Stadium would still be standing and housing our two professional teams of the NBA and NHL."  

This argument has a few things wrong right off the bat. While Jordan's popularity undoubtedly helped build the capital necessary for a new arena, the Bulls got some help too from Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz.

The former Blackhawks owner was not a fan favorite but he possessed a nearly endless stream of money from various business ventures, only one of which being the Chicago Blackhawks Hockey Club. Taken straight from the United Center website, the origin of the building stems from a business agreement between Wirtz and Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. While the time period and Bulls championship runs created the idea that Jordan *literally* was the sole reason behind the building's creation, the truth is that both franchises have had an equal hand in the United Center's existence. Talks of building a new stadium to house both franchises actually began in the late 80's. These talks were led mostly by Bill Wirtz.

"The House That Jordan Built" is a fun, classy nickname for the great arena, but it should not be taken seriously. Michael Jordan is the greatest NBA player of all time but that doesn't make the United Center any more the Bulls' home than the Blackhawks'.  

Jordan statue Toews.jpg

The United Center: Home to TWO professional sports teams

I've heard the argument that the United Center was built to hold as many people as possible; The historically inept automatically assume this pertains only to the Bulls and that the Hawks were just along for the ride. The truth is that Hawks fans flocked to the United Center just like Bulls fans in the first couple years of its existence. The final several years at Chicago Stadium saw Blackhawks' attendance numbers that were on par with (or better) than the Bulls' as well. 
The author also points to the idea that Hull and Mikita had nothing to do with the United Center's existence. I guess he wants to tear down the statue of Johnny Red Kerr inside the UC too then, right?
Hull and Mikita have more to do with the United Center than some people think.
I know it isn't something basketball fans enjoy doing in this city, but if you look deep into the history of both franchises, the Hawks were the ones keeping the Bulls afloat for a long time. Throughout the 60's and 70's, Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull drew raucous standing room only crowds to Chicago Stadium. The Bulls' crowds resembled that of a 2003 Blackhawks game. It goes both ways, folks. 
"Without Michael Jordan, who are we to say that building would be standing on the west side of the city today?"
Without Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, it's possible there would have been no Chicago Bulls uniform for Michael Jordan to wear. 
The idea that the Blackhawks were "never relevant" at the United Center is an interesting one as well, considering they've sold out well over 100 straight games and out-drew the Bulls in attendance just last season. They continue to fill the building to a higher capacity this season. But who looks at numbers anyways?
The actual issue of whether or not Hull and Mikita are worthy of statues is indisputable. The two former superstars brought a championship to the city and were the cornerstones of the Chicago sports scene for the majority of their careers. The UC is the Hawks' home and 9 and 21 are icons of the franchise. Makes sense to me. 
The bottom line: The two teams share the building. Both are great franchises and are allowed to honor legends in any way they'd like. I thought this was a common and well-accepted idea in American professional sports. I'm once again surprised. 
I, for one, look forward to telling friends to "meet at the Hull statue" after games.

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  • Exactly. To accept the other gentleman's argument, one would be forced to also claim that since Babe Ruth never played at the new Yankee Stadium, it's inappropriate to commemorate him there. Ridiculous.

  • GREAT and ACCURATE blog post!

  • Thanks for the comments!

  • Good work John.

  • Interesting take on this subject, but lets be honest here.

    The Hawks beat the Bulls in attendance last year ONLY because they were the best team in the league. This year the trend seems to be going back to normal with the Bulls averaging more spectators and this is with both winter teams actually being good, with the Bulls being better. Winning, more then anything, puts fannies thru the door more so then a blind loyal following. Even when the Bulls were bad, they were averaging almost DOUBLE the attendance of a bad Blackhawk team. Many need to put the Hawks into realistic perspective; they are a niche team here in a niche sport. There is no comparision to a proven franchise in the Bulls who have been turning a profit for DECADES while even last year Wirtz was crying poor. This whole myth that the Bulls wouldnt be here without the contributions of Hull and Mikita can go the other way also that the Hawks could be somewhere else if Jordan wasnt around raking in the cash for Mr. 51% Dollar Bill.

    Why many die hard Hawk fans just cant understand that last year was nothing but a novelty in the eyes of many is beyond logical thought. The casual fan cared last year when they were winning. now, not so much. And proof being seeing all these "sellouts" at the UC with plenty of open seats stinks of McCub hype that went on while he was doctoring the numbers while running the Cubs.

    Its ok, enjoy this team. But to think more statues need to be made to honor players that honestly are not relevant now in this day and age just need to stop.

  • You just added nothing new to this conversation.

    #1, there are not empty seats at Hawks games this season. The ticket demand remains strong and every game will be sold out this season. Tickets on the secondary market continue to be consistently double the value of the same seat for a Bulls game. Go do some comparisons for Stubhub if you don't believe me. And the Bulls have more spectators by a very small margin that only exists due to differences in court and rink sizes. The Hawks fill the building to a higher capacity (107%) than the Bulls. But it really doesn't even pertain to this argument.

    Listen, this article's purpose was to dismiss the notion that the Hawks aren't allowed to freely put up statues of their franchise's icons. I'm not gonna get into a pissing match about who kept who afloat for longer (And for the record, the Hawks did just fine until the late 90's when fans completely had enough, so there wasn't much of a time period where Jordan "raked in the cash for dollar bill."

    Anyways, we all know about the time period of futility for the Blackhawks. It was a case of the worst owner in the history of sports alienating an entire fanbase; it means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things because it would've happened to any fanbase. Saying that "A bad Bulls team averaged double attendance than a bad Hawks team" wins tonight's award for best "No Shit" comment.

    You seem to think interest is down for the Hawks this year, but ratings are up and attendance has remained consistent for a team that has been nowhere near the top of the conference all season.

    All that's happened is Bill Wirtz's death and a commitment to winning has brought things back to the way they were prior to 1997-1998. People forget that the Hawks were an esteemed Original 6 franchise that was very powerful for all but 10 years of its existence. It was a sleeping giant that has since been awoken.

    So if you're counting on the Hawks falling off and returning to 2003, you're going to be waiting a while.

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