Guide to Your First Chicago Blackhawks Game

If you’ve never been to a Chicago Blackhawks game, you’re missing out on a great time. No matter when you go, you can expect a lively crowd and some great entertainment on the ice. But before you head to your first Chicago Blackhawks game, check out our guide below so that you can make the most of your experience.

How To Get to the United Center

New Fan's Guide to the Chicago Blackhawks
Image by Sarah A is licensed with Creative Commons

First, you need to know how to get to the United Center, home to the Chicago Blackhawks. You have two primary choices for how to get there – you can either drive or you can take public transit. If you plan on driving, the address for the United Center is 1901 W. Madison Street.

As you arrive at the United Center, you’ll see there are a few parking lots surrounding the arena. Parking costs range from around $25 to $45, depending on how far away you park. Taking an Uber or a Taxi is also an option and there’s a dedicated area for pickups/drop-offs near the corner of Madison and Wood St. Lastly, you can book parking in advance using either Ticketmaster or SpotHero. Doing so ensures you get a spot and may even save you a few dollars.

If you decide to take public transit, you can take either the Orange, Green, Purple, or Brown lines to Madison St. From there, you can take either the #20 bus west along Madison or the #19 United Center Express bus. The express bus runs only on game days, starting 90 minutes before puck drop and stopping thirty minutes before the game. These buses run every ten minutes or so, making it easy to grab one on your way to the arena. Learn more about your transit options at the Chicago Transit Authority website.

What to Wear to a Blackhawks Game

If this is your first hockey game, you can expect it to be a little chilly. This is especially true if you sit in the lower sections, closer to the ice. However, with all the people around and the bright lights, it’s not as cold as you might think. Most people are typically comfortable in pants and a hoodie. If you’re attending a game in the winter, it’s likely colder outside than it is inside, so wear something you can easily take off.

Blackhawks jerseys are the most common attire in the arena. You can easily wear one over a hooded sweatshirt or long-tee, or underneath a jacket. If you don’t have a jersey yet, you can order one through Fanatics (the official manufacturer this season), or through the official NHL site. The subreddit r/HockeyJerseys also has some suggestions for other (cheaper) retailers you can try. There’s also plenty of Blackhawks hoodies and tees available if you don’t want to spend the money on a jersey yet.

Where to Eat and Drink Before a Blackhawks Game

Before you head over to the game, you might want to grab a bite to eat or a drink. You’re in luck, because there are plenty of options near the arena. If you want a slice of pizza, we recommend Coalfire, about a mile away from the arena. For sandwiches or burgers, there’s the Palace Grill Restaurant, located right on Madison St. Finally, if you want something more upscale, check out Queenie’s Supper Club located inside the United Center itself. For more suggestions on where to go, check out our list of best places to eat before a Chicago Blackhawks game.

What Time to Arrive at the United Center

Doors typically open at the United Center 90 minutes before game time. So, if the Blackhawks are playing at 7 o’clock, expect the doors to open around 5:30. One advantage of arriving early is that you can watch warmups. Warmups start around 30 minutes before game time. You can head to one of the lower level sections near where either team is warming up and sit closer to the glass. It’s a great way to see the players up close, especially if your seats are further away. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a stray puck that pops over the glass.

Other than warmups, there are a few things you can do before the game. If you’re hungry, there are plenty of concessions stands where you can grab a bite to eat. You can also visit the team store if you want to get some more merch. Finally, you can simply walk around the concourse, checking out the arena. There’s typically different vendors, activities, games, etc. all taking place, so you have some things to explore while you wait.

Tips for Enjoying the Blackhawks Game

Stan Mikita Statue via K Tao on Flickr
Image by K Tao is licensed with Creative Commons

Here a few general tips to help you enjoy your first Blackhawks game:

  • Check out the statues around the arena. There are three statues of Chicago legends around the arena, worth checking out on your first visit and snagging some pictures. The first is a statue of Michael Jordan, which you can find in the United Center Atrium. More Blackhawks-relevant are the statues of Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita. You can find these twin statues in the northeast corner of the United Center, outside gate 3-1/2.
  • Bring the right bag. New United Center policy restricts what type of bags you can bring into the arena. You can only bring in small bags or purses, up to 10x6x2, which means no backpacks. If you need a bag check, there’s one located in Parking Lot J, but it isn’t free and can fill up quick.
  • Download the official Blackhawks app. The official app for the Blackhawks, available for both Android and Apple devices, has some great features. You can store your tickets on it, order food, find parking, and get breaking news alerts all in one spot.
  • Cheer during the national anthem. Unlike most arenas, where the building is relatively quiet during the national anthem, Chicago fans typically make a lot of noise. Cheer along with the crowd to get yourself excited for the upcoming puck drop.
  • Keep your eye off the puck. One of the benefits of watching a game in person rather than on TV is that you can see the entire ice. Rather than focusing on just the puck or player with the puck, try watching all that’s going on around it. Watch how the players move based on the position of the puck to gain a deeper appreciation for the game.

Places to Visit After the Game

If you’ve still got some energy after the game and you’re not ready to call it a night, there are some great places you can visit. For starters, if you’re looking to get some autographs, head to the lower parking lot at the west end of the stadium. You’ll likely see a security guard here at the gate and some other fans waiting around. After most games, a few players will stop to give autographs.

As for bars, try the Billy Goat Tavern or West End Grille. These are pretty close to the United Center and a popular place for fans to grab a post-game drink. For a completely different atmosphere, try checking out one of Chicago’s famous jazz clubs. Kingston Mines and Rosa’s Lounge are both open late and often feature live music, especially on the weekend. If you’re from out of town and only in Chicago for a short time, these are great spots to complete your Chicago experience.

Making Your First Chicago Blackhawks Game Memorable

Hopefully, this guide answers all your questions about attending your first Chicago Blackhawks game. We think that once you attend your first in-person hockey game, you’ll get hooked on the sport and want to attend a lot more.