Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Field of Dreams Covered in Ice -- The NHL Winter Classic Comes to Chicago's Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field is the coliseum of National League baseball. The ivy in the outfield is still green this time of year, the lights installed in 1988 shine brighter than the sun on a summer day, and -- on New Years Day 2009 -- it became the first baseball stadium in America to host a hockey game.

Fans lucky enough to win tickets through a lottery system earlier this year witnessed this historic day at Wrigley Field during a sub-30 degree winter New Years Day in Chicago.

The Chicago Blackhawks faced the Detroit Redwings sported vintage jerseys for the NHL's annual Winter Classic in front of a sellout crowd. The Classic is the 701st meeting between the midwestern teams, both are members of the six original teams of professional hockey in the US.

But -- the Blackhawks fulfilled the inevitable prophecy of all Chicago sports teams entering the Wrigley Field spotlight -- they lost.

Detroit shutout the Blackhawks by four goals.

Some people wondered why the NHL would schedule such a unique game on the biggest college football game of the year. "If you’re drooling over Iowa-South Carolina or Clemson-Nebraska, then I think we have the foundation for a federally mandated sterilization program," Steve Rosenbloom, a Chicago Tribune sports blogger, said.

The game showed off Detroit's Ty Conklin's tremendous ability as a goalie, giving his team 36 saves -- making the Winter Classic his seventh career NHL shutout. Johan Franzen also scored twice against the Blackhawks lifting the Red Wings to their shutout victory that ended the Blackhawks nine-game winning streak.

Cubs greats Ryne Sandberg, Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams attended the game on their old stomping grounds as well. They were joined by current Cubs pitchers Ryan Dempster and Jeff Samardzija.

According to one reporter, "It really was a once in a lifetime opportunity, very cool out there, a great atmosphere," Sandberg said. "There was quite a buzz."

Jenkins, a three-time major league All-Star who played as a kid, dropped the first puck at center ice.

"It's another sport," Jenkins said, "but to play it here at Wrigley Field, where I played and coached for years, it's a great experience."

Fans unable to score seats to The Windy City's hottest Winter ticket still got a piece of the action. The NHL opened a Spectator Plaza on the corner of Waveland and Clark street, just west of the infamous ivy covered bleachers to entertain the faithful sports lovers. Benefits included ticket giveaways, live music, interactive games, and ice sculpting.

The Friendly Confines has now hosted four different sports on its field, including basketball, football, baseball, and hockey -- which is more than any other stadium in Major League Baseball history.

No comments: