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Hawks Chicago's Most Popular Team? Why Not?

Which Chicago team is most popular right now? It just might be the one on skates -- the defending Stanley Cup champions.

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The last shall be first.

That's so true in the Blackhawks' climb from NHL doormat to the Stanley Cup in all of four years.

And it may also be accurate in the hockey team's ranking in Chicago's Q (not Quenneville) rating.

Since Patrick Kane punched his overtime goal -- the mystery of the disappearing puck -- past Michael Leighton, I've wondered if the unbridled love for the Hawks isn't just for their pure on-ice accomplishments. The sheer size of the city's welcome in their victory parade indicated to me a yearning for an exciting young team and an accessible owner who truly cares about the fans. Even more so, it indicated disgust with the city's No. 1 and 1-A pro franchises -- the Bears and Cubs.

The collective wishing for that Lions touchdown pass to be ruled legit in the season opener, all the more better to effect regime change, and the trend of posters on our sister site, Bleed Cubbie Blue, to vow they're going to be slow to buy Cubs tickets in 2011 is more proof of my supposition.

Now we've got some actual votes of team popularilty.  The Daily Herald last week ran a fan poll that ranked the most popular Chicago teams. Bears in a landslide, right? Nope. Blackhawks No. 1 at 30 percent, followed by Bears at 27 percent, Cubs at 24 percent, White Sox at 16 percent and Bulls at 3 percent. As the frosting on the cake, the Hawks broadcast team of Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk were voted the most popular of all the on-air play-by-play and color pairings in town.

Putting the poll in perspective, some of the Hawks' ballot-pacing status is an instant sugar fix from the Stanley Cup, the only pro sports championship other than the White Sox in this city since 1998. The Hawks are the fashionable entertainment event du jour this season.

But if you see the explosion of Hawks red sweaters throughout town and the Stanley Cup Finals ticket prices for the banner ceremony Saturday night, then you'll realize the Hawks have built themselves a huge base. The mushrooming of interest is totally legit. An attorney to whom I spoke paid $345 apiece for tickets in the first row of the 300 level. Another man promised his son a 12th birthday present, so he shelled out $115 each for standing-room-only tickets.

The Hawks simply can't match the sheer number of Bears Sunday TV ratings. But much of those whopping figures are the team's status as a weekend social event and object of both office pools and bookie bets. The average fan watching a Sunday game can't name each member of the Bears' porous offensive line, or their line coach.

The disgust with Bears management is beyond tolerance. Meanwhile, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts has not won over his skeptical fan base between the disastrous 2010 season, a too-slow pace of organizational improvement, and ill-advised ticket price hikes, with empty bleachers for night games one noticeable side effect.

Neither of the Big Two can match Rocky Wirtz and his staff in appeal. Too bad Rocky can't also own the Bears and Cubs.

The pecking order of Chicago sports remained static for decades. A shakeup with a fresh face zooming to the top is welcome today.