Chicago's other pro sports
Look beyond the major leagues for a different experience of pro sports fandom.
Michael Jordan led the Bulls to multiple NBA championships. The Bears sparked a recurring Saturday Night Live skit. The Blackhawks and White Sox have had championship seasons in recent years. And though we wouldn’t wish the perennial heartbreak of Cubs fandom on anyone, the North Side team remains an iconic baseball franchise playing in a legendary historic ballpark. That’s nice and all, but sometimes bigger isn’t better. Which is why we’d like to fill you in on the under-the-radar hometown teams below. We promise you tickets and concessions will be cheaper and the games a helluva good time.
Thanks to the 2010 World Cup, you’ve probably heard more about soccer than ever—even watched a match or two on TV and wished you were in South Africa chanting your lungs out. Use up that energy cheering on our MLS squad: There’s a lot going for it. Former U.S. national team and English premier league player Brian McBride is the team captain—the local boy was the first American ever to score goals in more than one World Cup. The Fire already has one MLS crown (1998) under its belt. Any year it could be in the running for its next. Tickets: $15–$50, $70 for stadium club access at chicago-fire.com.
WNBA team the Chicago Sky recently acquired the six-foot-one All-Star Shameka Christon, who averages more than 16 points a game and hits three-pointers without breaking a sweat. Count in powerhouse scorer Sylvia Fowles and vets such as Dominique Canty and you’ve got one of the league’s most potent pro women’s basketball teams playing at Allstate Arena. Tickets: $15–$125 at wnba.com/sky/.
Arena football, played inside during the spring, might carry a snicker of condescension with it from the old-school gridiron bunch, but the Rush (co-owned by Bears football deity Mike Ditka) was the old Arena Football League’s most televised team and averaged 98 percent capacity for home games in 2008. The league went bankrupt, but it has reorganized and the Rush and stars such as DeJuan Alfonzo can attract more than 10,000 to their home games at Allstate Arena. Tickets: $10–$60 at arenarush.com.
Who knew there was another pro hockey league? Wolves fans, that’s who. We’re told you can see a Wolves jersey in the opening credits to the HBO show Entourage—which means Jeremy Piven is a fan, and Wolves lovers are a dedicated bunch. The American Hockey League team has never had a losing season and has made the league finals six times. In 2004–05, it benefited from an NHL lockout. But these days, it stands in the long shadow of Stanley Cup champs the Blackhawks. Tickets: $19 and up at chicagowolves.com/tickets.
Chicago Red Stars
Boasting international talent like Brazilian scoring sensation Cristiane and British defender Anita Asante, the Chicago Red Stars have a great deal of star power for a young pro women’s soccer team—like the Fire, they play at the clean and comfy Toyota Park. Red Star Brittany Klein tells us the team is über-motivated: “We work our butts off when we don’t have the ball.” Tickets: $15–$50 at redstarsgear.com/tickets.
Chicago Lions RFCThis rugby team is named after the lions on the Art Institute steps. The Super League team, which has been around since 1964, lost to Milwaukee in the 2010 CARFU Cup final, so it has something to prove this spring. You can watch it train several nights a week in the summer at Chicago Hope Academy Field (2431 W Roosevelt Rd), where it also competes and is developing a youth rugby program for the school. Who says bruisers don’t have a heart? Tickets: $5 at the field.
Windy City Rollers
Chicago pro flatrack roller-derby squad competes at UIC Pavilion to consistently large crowds and fields an all-star traveling team. There are five teams (the Fury, Hell’s Belles, Double Crossers, Manic Attackers and Haymarket Rioters) in the citywide Rollers league—all sporting as much tattoo ink as the entire NBA. The rockin’ rollers might adopt tongue-in-cheek aliases, but the sport has quite a steep learning curve—it’s no joke. Tickets: $20 at windycityrollers.com.