The popularity of outdoor hockey seemingly knows no bounds. With the recent New Year's Day showcase in Buffalo such a success, NHL teams are lining up to host one of the outdoor festivals in their home town.
The latest to put their name on the list are the Chicago Black Hawks who are looking at playing an outdoor game at the famed Wrigley Field. The Hawks first floated the idea in February with a few radio interviews in the Chicagoland area suggesting that it's something that would be fun for Chicago.
While no commitment has been made by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, it seems like a sure thing that once again NHLers will be breaking out the long johns and bench side heaters sometime in the early days of 2009.
Chicago joins New York, Boston, Detroit, Colorado, Montreal, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia as would be candidates for the next outdoor showcase which has a pretty large shadow to follow after Buffalo's remarkable ability to attract over 71,000 fans to watch hockey outdoors on a snowy, blowy afternoon.
The Commissioner sounded quite old fashioned with his comments regarding the ongoing love affair with outdoor hockey; "“There was a special, almost romantic, emotional, exciting, holistic quality to what took place in returning to our outdoor roots,” a true enough sentiment we suspect though it's doubtful that Mr. Bettman spent much time in his youth hanging out around the pot bellied iron cast stove trying to thaw his feet out after five or six hours of skating and shovelling. Part of the experience for many a baby boomer trying to rekindle that passion.
However, making money is something that might be closer to his heart and no one can doubt that these outdoor showcases are going to make money, and featuring a hockey game at venerable old Wrigley must surely have the Black Hawk management salivating at the possibilities.
The early favourites for the next outdoor game are reported to be New York City or Montreal, so Chicago may have to wait its turn, but they will make a solid case for their city.
If all else fails they could always offer to play the game on Lake Michigan, just make sure that the Hawks have the windy city advantage when the breeze gusts in as it's likely to do on a cold Chicago winters day.
Chicago Daily Herald--Wrigley on Bettman's radar
Chicago Sun Times--Outdoor game in city doesn't appear imminent
Chicago Tribune--Blackhawks hot to draw cool attraction
The Canadian Press--Bettman says outdoor game in Chicago would make sense
Photo from Chicago Cubs website