Blackhawks’ next Circus Trip will their last, per report

The annual Circus Trip is coming to an end.

The Chicago Blackhawks’ upcoming annual Circus Trip will be the last one, reports the Chicago Tribune. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus won’t be returning to the United Center in 2017, which will put an end to the two-week show that required the arena’s tenants to go on the road.

The Blackhawks and Chicago Bulls, who share the United Center, have annually been taking big road trips in the second half of November to accommodate the circus. This actually predates the United Center, as the circus had been coming to Chicago Stadium prior to the opening of the current building.

The arena is also changing its deal with Disney On Ice, which annually puts the Blackhawks and Bulls on road trips in February. That show will be condensed to one week per year starting in 2018, putting less strain on the teams with multiple long-term trips away from home.

This isn’t particularly surprising, as the Tribune notes a 2015 report that Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz, who co-owns the United Center with Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, planned to let the deals with the circus and ice show expire.

"The reason we're doing this is twofold," Terry Savarise, senior vice president of operations for the UC, said to the Tribune. "One is that in future years the Bulls and Blackhawks no longer have to endure two two-week road trips, and a subset of that is that those trips had resulted in a compression of our home schedules. There were times when you'd have four home games in a one-week period, which fans didn't like.

"So the elimination of the two-week circus run and the reduction of the Disney ice show run from two weeks to one allows us to resolve those two issues on behalf of the teams. I think the teams are pleased to have the additional flexibility in the scheduling process."

The Blackhawks’ final Circus Trip, which will cover seven games over two weeks, begins Tuesday night in Winnipeg against the Jets. The team will return to the United Center on Nov. 29 when the Panthers come to town.

Chicago has had mixed success on the Circus Trip over the years, but it was always considered a frustrating quirk in the team’s schedule. Most other NHL teams don’t have to deal with lengthy road trips caused by their arenas’ non-sports schedules, and while the Blackhawks (and Bulls) always put on a good face, you have to imagine a more traditional schedule will have its benefits.