CHICAGO — The streak will continue for the Blackhawks’ biggest fan.
Whenever the Hawks return to the ice, you can bet Bob Gertenrich will be there. Gertenrich, a Skokie resident who has attended 2,188 straight games, said he’s “very happy” that the NHL lockout – which wiped out the first half of the hockey season – appears to be over.
“I just hope they don’t play too many games in a short period of time,” he said, moving quickly from jubilation to concern for players’ well being.
Gertenrich’s streak goes back to Jan. 23, 1966, when the Black Hawks, as they were then known, led by Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Glenn Hall, tied the Montreal Canadians at Chicago Stadium.
Now these Hawks, led by Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp, are back, filling a void left by the 113-day lockout.
“I miss everything,” Gertenrich said, who has become close with many people around his seats in section 333. “I have a lot of friends there. Some people I still keep in contact with, and have dinner with. A lot of people I only do see at games.”
He’ll be able to reconnect with those friends – but only for about half the games he normally would. The NHL season will be between 48 and 52 games, according to media reports. The season could begin by Jan. 19, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“I just hope I don’t have to see Columbus three times,” said Gertenrich, who’d prefer to see Eastern Conference powerhouses like the New York Rangers or Philadelphia Flyers. The Hawks, however, will likely only play Western Conference rivals.
Should Gertenrich ever encounter NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who offered a congratulatory phone call upon the superfan’s 2,000th straight game and has overseen three labor stoppages in the last 20 years, there’s likely one thing Gertenrich would be sure to say.
“Just don’t have it happen again.”