No. 14: Chicago Blackhawks

2013 Ultimate Standings

Updated: September 23, 2013, 12:29 PM ET
By Morty Ain | ESPN The Magazine

Last year's rank: 74
Title track: 10
Ownership: 11
Coaching: 13
Players: 9
Fan relations: 20
Affordability: 91
Stadium experience: 6
Bang for the buck: 14

Behold the golden season of Blackhawks hockey. The dream opened with the greatest start in NHL history (24 straight games with a point) and ended in surreal jubilation on Boston ice (yeah, that was Jim Belushi hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup). Only slightly less believable was how Kaner & Co. vanquished their rivals in epic fashion: two goals in the final 1:16.

Even though our rankings survey concluded before Justin Bieber and the Backstreet Boys posed with the Cup, a sixth-ranked stadium experience proved that the most raucous and stuffed (over 110 percent of capacity) arena in the NHL is selling itself. Included are exuberant sing-alongs to "Chelsea Dagger" and arguably the best rally cry in all of sports: the national anthem. With Frank Pellico tickling the Allen Organ and Jim Cornelison on tenor, the other 22,000 in attendance provide goose-bump-inducing background vocals. It's an opening act that converts even the most ardent home-ice-advantage skeptics, as if coughing up only four home games all season wasn't proof enough.

Unfortunately, insatiable demand is a double-edged sword. Two days into the playoffs, the front office announced a 16 percent price hike across the board -- the team's fourth jack-up in six years. And with more than two million packed in for the victory parade and 12,000 on hold for season tickets, it likely won't be the last. Heck, Game 5 seats vs. the Bruins were getting resold for an average of $1,044 a pop, higher than those for Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Still, it's never been a better time to be a Blackhawks fan. And although we appreciate alliteration as much as anyone, we have one request for 2014: Please, don't hand the Cup to Belushi, Bieber or any Backstreet Boy.

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