From die-hard fans to national media, it seems like everyone's following the
The hype has waned since the 24-game points streak to start the season ended, but the Hawks are atop the
And when a team is this good after being so bad for so long, as the Hawks were in the early 2000s, longtime fans and newcomers can be at odds. So, is there room for everyone on the bandwagon?
It didn't take long for Reginald Riggins, 28, of Englewood, to get behind the team.
"I started enjoying the Hawks when I went to a game back in 2009," he said. "I've been a fan ever since. The game became enjoyable after seeing the game live. The speed of the game and the skill it takes to play the game is different from other sports where you usually move with your feet, not skates."
Riggins also does not put much stock into what some die-hards have to say about new-school fans.
"Everyone has an opinion," he said. "It doesn't matter what people have to say; it won't stop me from enjoying hockey games."
Kenyeh Ganda, 36, of Wicker Park, works at Haymarket Pub and Brewery in the West Loop and has lived in Chicago for 11 years. Although she admits to not being a hard-core hockey fan, she does not see herself as a bandwagon supporter.
"I wouldn't necessarily consider myself a bandwagon fan," she said." I've always liked them. I think I def [sic] watch more hockey now because I work in a sports bar."
Jim Sonnenberg, 43, of Irving Park, was one of the fans who supported the Hawks when attendance plummeted about 15 years ago.
"It used to be a totally depressing sausage fest," he said. "I was among the 6,000-8,000 that was going to games during the 'dark ages' and the place was a morgue. I like it when the joint is jumping and there's a fair amount of ladies mixed in with all the hockey dudes."
Lifelong fans remember how bad the Hawks used to be. Now many say they understand how pivotal fringe fans are to the popularity of the sport.
Sam DeLaurentis, 27, of Garfield Ridge, categorizes bandwagon fans as a necessary evil.
"They're necessary for the growth of the sport, although I'd prefer they'd keep their mouths shut on sports radio and other forms of media," said DeLaurentis, a beer vendor at U.S. Cellular Field. "There are bandwagoners in each sport though. I hate them, but they can't go away."
North Sider Cheryl Adams, 42, said longtime fans should welcome newer ones into the fold while schooling them on hockey etiquette.
"Every sport has bandwagon fans. It tends to annoy the 'die-hards' as the fair-weather fans jump on and off the wagon depending on the fortunes of their team," she said. "Some people don't know the 'proper' chants or whatever."
Adams also urges longtime fans to open a dialogue with those new to the team.
"Start up a conversation with that person, find out about them," she said. "Maybe it's their first game they're getting to see live. You being a cool fellow fan might make the difference between that guy/gal sticking around and that person thinking the team's fans are jerks."
Matthew Paulish, 31, of Itasca, does not mind that the United Center is more packed than it used to be.
"I don't mind them at all. If more kids get to go to hockey games because of bandwagon parents, that's cool," he said. "My brother and I were the only two [bleeps] in Section 311 from 1999 to 2007. All I care about is the Hawks staying competitive. I don't care that bandwagoners enjoy the ride too."
Evan F. Moore is a RedEye special contributor.