Skokie superfan has been to 2,152 consecutive Hawks games
BY MITCH DUDEK Staff Reporter June 11, 2013 9:51PM
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Updated: June 12, 2013 2:51AM
Bob Gertenrich has a strange feeling the Hawks will beat the Bruins in Game 7.
You might brush off the prediction if you didn’t know Gertenrich has been absorbing team vibes from his upper deck perch for 2,152 consecutive home games — a record streak the 66-year-old began in 1966 at age 19.
Another possible omen: Gertenrich’s birthday falls on June 26, the day of Game 7.
“I’d love to see them win in Game 6; I don’t want to have a heart attack on my birthday.”
Gertenrich, a bachelor who lives in a condo in Skokie, attended a game the day his mother died in 1991.
“She would have wanted me to. What was I gonna do, sit around all day?”
He spent most of last season at the United Center in a wheelchair after foot surgery (bunions be damned). He smiles while listening to the congratulatory phone message he saved from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman after attending his 2,000th game in 2010. Maybe one day he’ll get around to organizing all the Hawks stuff cluttering his place.
A bobble-head army of red jerseys lines his coffee table. Dozens of Hawks hats line his bedroom dresser. Framed and signed memorabilia lie on a table awaiting a hook and nail. But the Blackhawks coat he bought for $25 in 1983 and paid $27 bucks to have re-zippered a few years back hangs in the front closet.
Slipping his arthritic limbs through the sleeves takes a little longer than it used to, but he wears it with pride.
Gertenrich, a retired restaurant worker, knows the game but can’t play it. “I couldn’t skate from here to the bathroom.”
He says he doesn’t have any Hawks tattoos. “I don’t even have sideburns.”
Gertenrich can think of only two scenarios that could end his streak: “If my brother dies — he’s pushing 80 years old — or a tornado.”
He doesn’t drive. He uses two of his three season tickets to take friends who give him a lift to the game.
People he doesn’t know have begun to stop by his seat — Section 333, Row 1, Seat 18 — to say hello.
A grown man recently asked him for an autograph. “I’d never laughed so hard,” he said. Others stop by to shake his hand.
The Hawks invited him into their locker room after his 2,000th game. “Coach Quenneville was eyeing my coat.”
His first season ticket cost $92.50. One of this three seats next season costs him $3,100.
The closest he ever came to missing a game was a few years back when he broke his wrist. A doctor put a cast on it and told him not to go. “I told my brother what the doctor said, and he said, ‘How’s he going to stop you?’ ”
The advice made a lot of sense to Gertenrich, and the streak continued.
Gertenrich, who has been to 11 Stanley Cup Final games, said he wouldn’t sell his ticket even if someone offered him $100,000. He has a message for Hawks fans at the United Center: “Cheer them on, raise the roof!”
Another Gertenrich prediction: Hawks win Game 1 2-1 — with Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp scoring goals.
“It’s the best game to watch live, and everyone agrees.”
Not everyone, however, understands his passion.
“Yeah, some people have called me crazy,” Gertenrich admits. “But a lot of those people are looking for Hawks tickets.”
“I got the last laugh now.