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Monday, July 22, 2024
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One Year Later, Blackhawks Still Feeling the Connor Bedard Effect

  • Chicago selected the generational talent with the first pick in the 2023 NHL draft.
  • Ticket sales, viewership, and other off-ice metrics continue to rise.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

At this time last year, the Blackhawks were getting ready to make a generational selection with the first pick of the NHL draft: Canadian center Connor Bedard (above), who would turn only 18 the following month.

Draft night in 2023 culminated a frenetic several weeks for Chicago, which saw a $5.2 million rush on season tickets in the aftermath of winning the draft lottery. As the season approached, ticket sales continued to soar, and Bedard’s debut ended up being the second-most-watched NHL game of the regular season.

The Bottom Line

While Bedard’s debut season resulted in winning the Calder Trophy on Thursday night as the NHL’s rookie of the year, it didn’t improve the Blackhawks’ place in the NHL standings (Chicago dropped from 30th in 2023 to 31st in ’24). Still, his off-ice impact was undeniable. Take a look at some of the biggest boosts the team saw over the previous season.

  • The Blackhawks saw a league-high 22% increase in total tickets sold, the team tells Front Office Sports.
  • Home attendance jumped from 24th to 5th in the NHL, with 18,836 fans per game.
  • Bedard had the top-selling NHL jersey.
  • Viewership for Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago increased by 35%.

After drafting Bedard in 2023, the Blackhawks say they sold 50% more full season-ticket packages than in ’22. Now, the team is tracking at a 97% renewal rate, as fans stick around for the young talent’s sophomore campaign. 

Bigger Than Hockey

Blackhawks front office executive Matt Gray credits Bedard’s arrival with the team reaching a new segment of fans. “He was starting to permeate culture, or the sports world generally,” says Gray, Chicago’s vice president of business strategy and analytics. “Whether it was collaborations with Victor Wembanyama or Pat McAfee’s show, or things like that that I don’t think we at the Blackhawks had really seen before.”

This coming season, the Blackhawks will have a new regional sports network home for Bedard to boost, Chicago Sports Network, as well as a new place in the national spotlight: The Blackhawks will host the Blues in this year’s Winter Classic at Wrigley Field. “I don’t think that happens without Bedard, to be honest with you,” Gray says.

For this draft, armed with the Nos. 2 and 18 picks in the first round, Chicago realizes the Bedard effect was likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “We might put a little bit less significance on the individual versus the team, and the path that we’re on overall,” Gray says.

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