Rockford won't be slowed by lockout

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Rockford won't be slowed by lockout

It's been exactly two months since the NHL's collective bargaining agreement expired, and since then, anger, hostility and little hope have surrounded the negotiations between the league and union. But for some fans, this setback wouldn't slow them down and they've discovered a new outlet to experience the hockey they've been missing.
It was a Wednesday night and the BMO Harris Center was far from sold out. But the fans who were in attendance -- whether they were regulars at IceHogs games or Chicagoans searching for a way to reconnect with the Blackhawks during the lockout -- displayed a deep appreciation for the team and for the fact that these games are much for affordable.
Whether it was participating in chuck-a-puck during the intermission or dancing with others sitting around them when Gangnam Style played over the speakers, IceHogs fans seemed to share the in-game experience with not only the people they arrived with, but also those they didn't even know yet.
"The crowd isn't as full as an NHL game would be," said Jessika Hujar, who's been coming to Rockford, in addition to games in Chicago, for many years. "The tickets are a lot cheaper, which is a plus, and the atmosphere is still the same. We're all here to see the same team and whenever the team scores, everyone's up from their seats cheering. You can come here knowing nobody and before you know it, it's like you know everyone by the time you leave here. It's a really great experience.
There are a lot of NHL season ticket holders here, a lot of those people from Chicago now also have season tickets here."
One of those people being Kristin Wolf, a lifelong Blackhawks fan who attended her first IceHogs game at the beginning of this season and has since commuted two hours to see each matchup in Rockford.
"I bought tickets the day before the lockout started. The fans are all very, very dedicated here. At the United Center you have a lot of bandwagon fans. But everyone here is very into the game."
"It's not as loud or as big as a Hawks game would be, but still, the people behind us and around us are funny, everyone's laughing and having a good time," added Laura Menne, who was attending her first IceHogs game that night. "It's the same general experience you would get if you were at a Hawks game."
Now the same question continues that many have wondered since the start of the lockout: Will NHL fans come running back whenever the new collective bargaining agreement is in place?
"Part of me doesn't really mind whether it ends this season," Wolf said. "I can afford these games and I enjoy them. I'm getting really into here and I don't want to stop coming mid-season, so if the lockout ends it wouldn't really affect me that much because I come here now."

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