Friday, January 02, 2009

And it's one, two three goals they win, at the old hockey game...

Chicago's venerable Wrigley Field morphed from baseball shrine to shinny palace on New Years Day as the Chicago Black Hawks hosted the Detroit Red Wings for a fascinating bit of outdoor hockey in the windy city.

The wind as is almost always the case in Chicago proved to be the most troublesome of all of the potential problems with an outdoor game, providing a strong reminder to today's pro athletes that our modern indoor rinks offer up a more controlled environment than the players of the early days faced when they played the game on outdoor rinks or riversides at the turn of the last century.

Thursday's Winter Classic was by all accounts a huge success for the NHL and for Chicago, the weather while cold and the wind while strong, didn't detract from the entertaining game that played out on the field at Wrigley, the home side even managing to hold the lead for a the first period and a portion of the second before the Stanley Cup champions reminded all in attendance and those watching on three television networks just why they were the champs.

Detroit mounted a second period comeback that wrestled control of the game from the Chi-Hawks, who despite playing a strong skating and physical game, could not stop the Red Wings from grabbing the two points and the talking points for the New Years Day spectacle.

Pavel Datsyuk's highlight reel goal in the second period put the Wings away for good with a 4-3 lead, his burst of speed and fancy deke of Christobal Huet the break away point for the Wings who eventually would prevail by a score of 6-4.

The game featured all the elements of a hard played NHL game except for any fights, the physical play punishing and the speed remarkable for an outdoor venue, but most important it was the ability of the Wings to shake off the early stumbles to regain their game and take the play to the Hawks that set the pace for the remainder of the game.

Chicago which is a team that is definitely on the rise in the NHL, could only watch as the veteran Red Wing squad provided yet another lesson in calmness and the ability to use hard work to grab yet another win.

The over 40,000 fans in the stands and those gathered on the nearby rooftops took in the hockey carnival with much enthusiasm, including a hockey version of the Harry Carey classic Take me out to the ball game.

Even though they didn't get the two points in the standings on Thursday, the Hawks were still winners, they hosted what has been described as the best of the Winter Classic events yet, making a leap beyond the Buffalo and Edmonton experiences of modern times.

The spectacle of a New year's Day game is probably going to be here to stay, it creates a major buzz not only in the host city but across the league as well, it attracts the major media that the NHL craves attention from and for the fans it offers up something different, a reminder of the magic of the game that sometimes gets lost in the middle of a long season.

Already the names are being dropped as to where the Winter Classic should travel to in 2010, while it's mainly American cities that get the mention, one can't help but wonder if Montreal, celebrating it's 100th anniversary this season and into the next might not be the most deserving of host city status.

The Canadiens would no doubt make wonderful hosts, considering the teams attention to detail and its ability to seemingly never miss a step when it comes to honouring the game. Though even they might admit that the Chicago experience might very well be a tough act to follow...

National Post-- Wings play spoiler in Classic at Wrigley
National Post-- Classic sends players back to hockey roots
Globe and Mail-- Classic effort by Wings
Globe and Mail-- Chicago's loss still a win for NHL
Chicago Tribune-- Red Wings spoil Blackhawks' fun outdoors
Chicago Tribune-- Winter Classic exceeds John McDonough's expectations
Chicago Tribune-- Winter Classic a perfect day
Chicago Tribune-- Blackhawks' outdoor game a classic Wrigley party
Chicago Tribune-- Chicago Blackhawks are frozen out of a win at Wrigley vs. Detroit Red Wings
Chicago Sun-Times-- Same old same as Hawks lose to Red Wings 6-4
Chicago Sun-Times-- Savard, other Hawk legends lead fans in song
Chicago Sun Times-- Red Wings like atmosphere, want another Detroit-Chicago outdoor game
Detroit News-- Red Wings have a field day at Wrigley
Detroit News-- Wings have a blast, finish series sweep
Detroit News-- Chelios doubles pleasure
Detroit Free Press-- Winter Classic a good sign for Wings, future of rivalry
Detroit Free Press-- The Wings should host an outdoor game - at Michigan Stadium
Detroit Free Press-- Next stop Comerica? Special day leaves players wanting more

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