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United Center
Chicago, IL

NHL Arena vitals

Opened: August 18, 1994
Capacity: 19,717  seats
Mascot: Tommy Hawk
Team Chant: "Let's Go Hawks!"
Draft Beer: $7.50
Hot Dog: $5.75
Arena Parking:  $20.00
United Center
Arena Address

1901 West Madison Street

Chicago, Illinois 60612
Get Directions


Philadelphia Flyers vs. Chicago Blackhawks: January 23, 2011, 3-1 Loss
Chicago, Illinois is a great sports town. Boasting representation in all four of the major professional sports leagues, fans residing in the Chicago area have wealth of professional sports options available to them throughout the year and a unique fan subculture has evolved in the area. The typical Chicago sports fan is a die-hard follower of the home team with a diverse knowledge base and a storied history of success. What stands out, apart from the unwavering support of the hometown product, is the connection to local taverns and restaurants that are as much a part of Chicago’s sports traditions as the teams themselves.

Founded in 1926, the Chicago Blackhawks were part of the group of six teams that comprised the National Hockey League for the 25 seasons between the 1942–43 season and the 1967 NHL Expansion. These teams, including the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs, are now known as the Original Six. Winning four Stanley Cups since their formation, with the most recent in 2010, I knew that a trip to the United Center, the home of the Chicago Blackhawks, would prove to be an invaluable experience as I strive to understand the NHL through the eyes of every fan base in the league.

Sam Sianis, Billy Goat Taven - Frozen Pond Pilgrimage.comMy journey began at 9:00am on Sunday January 23 as the Chicago Blackhawk were set to face off against the Philadelphia Flyers at 11:30am in the United Center. The NFL fan within me knew that today was going to be a great sports day in the city of Chicago as the Chicago Bears were also set to lock horns with the Green Bay Packers later that day with a trip to Super Bowl XLV on the line. To get the full Chicago Blackhawks experience however, a trip to the United Center must begin by stopping in to see Sam Sianis, the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern. You may know of the Billy Goat Tavern from the Saturday Night Live skit based on its cook staff (“Cheezborger! Cheezborger! Cheezborger! No fries, cheeps! No Pepsi, Coke!" - John Belushi) or by the legendary curse that Billy Goat Tavern owner, William “Billy Goat” Sianis (who happens to be Sam’s Uncle), placed upon the Chicago Cubs after being denied entrance to Wrigley Field because he wanted to be accompanied by his goat, Murphy. In any case, a trip to the United Center is not complete without stopping by the see Sam, having yourself a “Double Cheezborger” and washing it all down with some of the Billy Goat Tavern dark that’s on tap. (for more information on “The Curse of the Billy Goat,” see my review on the Chicago Bulls)

Hans Steiniger United Center - Frozen Pond PilgrimageOnce inside the United Center, the “Madhouse on Madison,” was alive with the energy of their most recent Stanley Cup win. Blackhawks jerseys embossed with the names “Patrick Kane” and “Jonathan Toews” littered the arena as Chicago Blackhawks red dominated the stands. For fans who arrive early, the United Center staff will allow temporary seating in the lower bowl area so you can see the teams warm up. As long as the aisleways remain clear and none of the actual gameday seatholders are displaced, upper level fans can hang out and watch as the starting goalies are peppered with shots by swarms of NHL starters looking to warm up for the game. Once the starters exit the ice, you need to back in your seats however.

United Center, Chicago Blackhawks - Frozen Pond PilgrimageThe United Center is packed for home games and the facility truly caters to its fanbase, providing wide concourses for ease of travel, along with ample restroom facilities and some of the best concessions in the National Hockey League. I have to say I was quite impressed with the variety and quality of fast food options available to Blackhawks fans looking to satisfy their cravings. Carved smoked turkey or smoked beef brisket sandwiches are on the menu along with Shrimp Po’ Boy sandwiches, Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza, Pulled BBQ pork and sweet potato fries. After a quick poll of the local fansbase, I found out that the best item on the menu is the Madhouse Burger. A full sized cheeseburger topped with a polish sausage and a mountain of caramelized onions is available for those who dare. It’s actually very good.

Madhouse on Madison - Frozen Pond PilgrimageAs far as my assessment of the gameday experience is concerned, I have to say the United Center and its staff just seems to get it. Great food is accompanied by excellent sightlines down to the action on the ice and there’s a noticeable involvement of the fanbase throughout the game with great fan giveaways, contests and some pretty humorous fan-cam gimmicks. But where the United Center truly shines is in providing a little something extra for the male sports fan. I’ve always thought that NHL hockey needs to add a little more sex appeal to their game day experience. There are no cheerleaders or dance teams out on the ice because there’s really no area for them to perform in. Well, at the United Center they’ve added the “Ice Girls” to help fill this void. A group of four to six scantily clad vixens that take to the ice during stoppages of play to help scoop up ice shavings from in and around the goal crease and bench areas. Not only do they perform a vital function by preserving the playing surface, but they also provide a little something extra that the sport happens to be lacking. I, for one, applaud the United Center for their efforts.

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Philadelphia Flyers - Frozen Pond PilgrimageAfter watching an uninspired 3-1 loss to the Phildelphia Flyers, it was on to Madison Avenue to catch the remainder of the Chicago Bears Game. I’m a big fan of the Goose island product line of beers, especially because they’re locally brewed in the area. So we stopped in at the Westend for the first half of the game and the Crossroads Bar & Grill to catch the second half. Both are located on Madison Street and are great bars to grab a couple of pints in. I was warned by several locals that the area around the United Center is not the safest area in the city, but before or after the game, there are lots of hockey fans that stick around for a postgame libation or two and police remain on duty to maintain order. I wouldn’t be too worried, but certainly be on your guard throughout the evening.

Wrigleyville - Frozen Pond PilgrimageWe capped off the evening by taking the L-Train to Wrigleyville for a few more liquid beverages of choice in the pubs and taverns on Clark Street (the Cubby Bear, Sluggers, John Barleycorn, Merkle’s). Wrigleyville, which sits in the shadow of the famous “Welcome to Wrigley Field, Home of the Chicago Cubs” sign, is a great bar area to check out during you Frozen Pond Pilgrimage. It’s located in a safe neighborhood and truly offers something for everyone. I highly recommend the trek out there if you’re looking for something to do while in the area. One last stop before calling it a night took us to Giordano’s to get some classic Chicago-style deep dish pizza. It simply doesn’t get any more “Chicago” than that. What a great sports town!

For more information on the City of Chicago, Illinois check out my other reveiws by clicking on the link below:
     NHL: Chicago Blackhawks, United Center - General Information

city of Chicago local information

Top Tourist Attractions:
Magnificent Mile, Navy Pier
Hancock Observatory, Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower)
Museums, Adler Planetarium, Art Galleries

Local Foods:
Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza
Chicago Style Hot dogs, Steak, Italian food
Grilled Krispy Kremes

What They're Drinkin':
312, Old Style, Goose Island Matilda, Two Brother Cane and Ebel Red Rye, Bud Light, Miller Light

Fan Resources:
Pocket Map of Chicago
Arena Policy
Arena Parking Map

Local Sports Media:
The Chicago Tribune
Chicago Sun-Times
The Score 670AM
Popular Bars:
United Center (Billy Goat Tavern, The Westend, Crossroads)
Wrigleyville (The Cubby Bear, John Barleycorn, Merkle's)
Lincoln Park (HiTopp's, Clarke's, Lion's Head, Dillinger's)
Rush Street (Tavern on Rush, Whiskey, Rosebud on Rush) Historic (Green Door Tavern, Underground Wonder Bar)
Hot Spots (English, Encore Liquid Lounge, Blue Chicago,
     The Back Room)
Stone Lotus, House of Blues, Fulton Lounge, Jbar Map Room, Revolution Brewing Brew pub

Best Restaurants:
Deep Dish Pizza (Giordano's, Pizzeria Uno, Pizza Ria, Gino's
     East, Lou Malnati's)
Alinea (Contem Amer)
Charlie Trotter's (Contem Amer)
Rosebud on Taylor Street (Italian Dining)
Wildfire (Steak & Seafood)
Blackbird (Contem Amer)

Where To Stay:
Find a hotel located in the downtown area. There's plenty to see and do and you can still situate yourself within striking distance of the United Center. I like The Wit or the Hilton Chicago which have all the amenities to properly pamper any Blackhawks Fan.

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