Blackhawks loyalty put on ice, some chilled cash flow and the cold-shoulder.
These are portraits of the effects on three Region fans — one of whom is economically dependent on a full-blown hockey season — of an NHL lockout that’s getting uncomfortably close to losing the entire 2012-13 season.
There’s Hammond’s Dennis Mamelson, a Hawks fan since 1957, whose enthusiasm is waiting to be thawed once the pucks are finally dropped, if ever this season.
“If they start playing tomorrow, I’d watch,” he said.
There’s Crown Point’s Joe Farmer, a longtime manager at the Charley Horse in Munster, who always has rubbed shoulders with present and past Hawks appearing at the sports bar. Bobby Hull has appeared several times, but had to cancel a Dec. 9 appearance for personal reasons. That can't help, as Charley Horse has lost business from absent fans not trekking in to watch Hawks games.
And, finally, there’s Rich Mamelson, Dennis’ brother, who lives a few miles away. As teenagers, the siblings used to journey to the old Chicago Stadium from their old home in Gary. But Rich Mamelson has moved on in life; he can take or leave sports in general, with the lockout no real concern.
NHL teams will come out of the work stoppage with varying degrees of damage. The Hawks are likely to pick up and start over thanks to fans like Dennis Mamelson.
“I miss hockey,” he said. “I love watching the Blackhawks. I’m not going to walk away disgusted. I want to see Marian Hossa back healthy. He’s getting a longer rest; I hope that helps him.
“By and large, the Blackhawks fans are strong. We take over Phoenix when we go there — Nashville, too. But the Blackhawks fans will be back.”
Mamelson, wonders what Hawks owner Rocky Wirtz’s private stance is on the lockout. Wirtz is credited by most fans with reviving the moribund franchise after taking over in 2007 after father Bill Wirtz’s death.
“There’s not any doubt; he’s got to be the most popular sports owner in the history of Chicago,” Mamelson said. “He doesn’t sit up in a perch…He sits down there in the seats where people can come by and get his autograph.”
Wirtz would be accorded a hero’s welcome at Charley Horse, 8940 Calumet Ave. Owner Brian Sord and Farmer have established the joint as a go-to place for hockey fans with the lure of real players.
But Charley Horse needs live Hawks games on the big screen to move its libations.
“It’s hurt us,” said Farmer, a Hawks fan since 1967. “On a weekend, easily 20 to 30 extra people are here. Come playoff time, double that.”
The lockout’s timing is especially tough for Farmer. He had briefly left Charley Horse to work for Hostess bakeries, which just went belly-up. Sord welcomed him back, but decreased business is hazardous for anyone dependent on hockey for a living.
Meanwhile, Rich Mamelson has mentally distanced himself over the decades from the intensity of fan interest his brother retained.
“I don’t care that much about sports,” he said. “The (Hawks’) Stanley Cup boosted it, but when it was over, it was over. Things change, it’s just the way it is. It’s just entertainment. Someday sports is going to dig its own grave, pricing itself out of market for the average citizen.”
He doesn’t hang around with Dennis enough.
“I was over at Southlake Mall the other day,” Dennis said. “I was going up an escalator and other guy was coming down another one. He had a T-shirt on saying ‘Bring Back Hockey.’
“I gave him a thumbs-up.”