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updated: 1/24/2013 4:32 PM

In crowded sports scene, Wolves make their mark

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  • Allstate Arena has been home to the Chicago Wolves since the franchise began 19 years ago. The Wolves set their prices to attract families and youth groups interested in hockey.

      Allstate Arena has been home to the Chicago Wolves since the franchise began 19 years ago. The Wolves set their prices to attract families and youth groups interested in hockey.
    Photo courtesy of Chicago Wolves/Ross Dettman

 
 

The Wolves technically are a "minor-league" hockey team, but they've never marketed themselves that way.

They've always used terms such as "professional" hockey, making sure to let people know the prices are right in a big-league town that features the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks.

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"We want to be a sports team in Chicago," Wolves chairman Don Levin said. "The Blackhawks are doing a great job. I respect them. They're a great team, and they've got great ownership and great management.

"But it's expensive. You can't bring your three kids. You just can't do it. You can if you're very wealthy. But you can't do it on a regular basis. I want those people to be happy. Go to the Blackhawks. Go with their buddies. But if they want to bring their kids to hockey, they bring them to the Wolves game."

That said, Levin maintains his team's relationship with the Blackhawks is "very cordial." The Wolves are an affiliate of the Hawks' hated rivals, the Vancouver Canucks. The Blackhawks have their American Hockey League affiliate in Rockford.

For years, Levin has argued that the better the Blackhawks do, the better it is for all hockey in town.

"Look at this past Friday and Saturday; we had some of the biggest crowds we had in years," Levin said "And why? Hockey came back (from the NHL lockout). There's a lot of news (that) hockey is back. It helps sell our tickets.

"We had some coverage, but there's no better coverage than seeing the NHL playing and seeing the Blackhawks win their (first three) games. It makes it exciting."

If there's any bit of frustration for Levin, he says it deals with respect the Wolves might not always get.

"I think that Chicago's a fickle market because we were like the Rodney Dangerfield of sports here sometimes," he said. "We were good. We're a really good team, but we don't get the respect from the hockey fans. For some reason, if it's not NHL, it's not good.

"We do a good job, and we don't get the respect from the press or a lot of the self-proclaimed hockey guys that we're a good team. It's not true. We are. So that's frustrating.

"On the other side, when I stand there (at games), and I've been standing in the same place for 19 years, you see all these people come in and see people with their kids and now they have kids and they come in, and it's a great thing, because they love the game. They love the sport, and they come with their family."

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