NHL Winter Classic 2009 has finally been confirmed for New Year's Day at Wrigley Field, featuring the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks (last Stanley Cup ... well, let's just say it's been awhile).
So in the end, the League went with Chicago over The Bronx; it was the right decision, but the NHL wants there to be no hard feelings. "We also acknowledge the interest and efforts of the New York Yankees and the City of New York throughout the NHL Winter Classic 2009 site selection process. We look forward to continuing discussions regarding the possibility of a future Winter Classic game at the new Yankee Stadium," said NHL Commission Gary Bettman, head of the unstoppable marketing machine that chose a Wednesday in the middle of July to announce the sequel to its biggest mainstream success of the last dozen years.
But Wrigley Field will be as compelling a player as any on the Wings or the 'Hawks in Jan. 2009; the novelty of seeing hockey in the Friendly Confines, and seeing hockey fans bundled up in bleachers and on rooftops, will be enough to guarantee a second straight triumphant made-for-TV event for the NHL.
Hockey fans are already sold on this thing, big time. What Puck Daddy wanted to know was: How do Chicago Cubs fans feel about an NHL game being played in their historic ballpark? So we snagged three of the top Chicago baseball bloggers and received some interesting answers.
Maddog from Another Cubs Blog warned us right off the bat that he doesn't care for hockey. "It's not that I don't like it. I just don't care about it." Al Yellon, Founder and Editor-in-Chief for Bleed Cubbie Blue, has been blogging about Windy City baseball since 2003. Finally, Ryan Corazza is PostmanR on the wickedly funny Chicago sports site We Are The Postmen, which blogged about the Winter Classic earlier today. He's also a White Sox fan, which brings some rather unexpected balance to the following Q&A.
Q. What are your general thoughts about hockey coming to Wrigley?
Maddog: The only thought I have about it is wondering how much money the Cubs are getting, if any. If there's money that can go back into payroll, I hope they do it more often.
Yellon: I'm thrilled, actually. I thought the game in Buffalo last winter was great for hockey and having an outdoor game at Wrigley Field brings the added allure of a grand old stadium.
Corazza: I'm excited about it. I live just a block or two from Wrigley -- too close for a White Sox lifer, in fact -- so it should be a cool event for the neighborhood on New Year's Day. John McDonough did a great job last year taking over as president -- and now that Papa Wirtz is out of the picture, RIP -- we can actually, um, watch games on TV again.
Q. Is Chicago enough of a hockey town in 2008 to warrant this kind of event?
Maddog: I have no idea if Chicago is enough of a hockey town.
Yellon: Until the death of Dollar Bill Wirtz, who ran the Blackhawks like it was 1949, I'd have said no. But Rocky Wirtz and John McDonough have brought the Blackhawks quickly into the 21st Century, have exciting young players, and this is one more way of MAKING Chicago a hockey town again, as it was in the 1960's.
Corazza: Yes and no. I think as a city, Chicago warrants it. But it's certainly not a die-hard hockey town. However, I really do think the Blackhawks are gaining steam and have some great young talent in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. The Winter Classic should only help.
Q. As a baseball fan, how does it feel to know that Wrigley won out over Yankee Stadium for the 2009 Winter Classic? Why do you think this decision is a good one?
Maddog: To be honest, being a baseball fan has nothing to do with any of my opinions about this. I don't really care that Wrigley won out over Yankee Stadium. It's interesting. Yankee Stadium is undoubtedly a better place than Wrigley in more than one way.
Yellon: It's great, really. When I first heard the league was going to do this again, I thought Wrigley -- with the two Original Six teams, Chicago and Detroit, participating -- was the perfect venue. Yankee Stadium -- well, there were reasons to do it there, too, but I'm glad they chose Wrigley Field. NBC will be very happy with all the visuals they can get from a sold-out Wrigley in winter.
Corazza: To be honest, I'm surprised. I'd figure Yankee Stadium, in its last year, would be a no-brainer. I don't know if McDonough worked some magic, or how it exactly it all played out ... but yeah, I think the decision is fine as is. It's not like Wrigley is a bad place for the Classic by any stretch. It's a great one. I just would have thought Yankee Stadium, for this year, wins out because this is its last year.
Q. Finally, are there any Wrigley traditions you'd like to see carried over to the hockey game?
Maddog: Hockey is a different sport, and I'm not one to worry about traditions in baseball anyway. Sometimes they're more annoying than anything else -- like the 7th inning stretch.
Yellon: If you're asking me whether we should "throw pucks back," I'd say no (and besides, the rink is probably going to be too far away for that to happen). This is a once-in-a-lifetime event and as such, I think it can stand on its own merits.
Corazza: I think watching the Classic from the rooftops is a must. (I wonder what the pricing is going to be on those for the game. On par with a Cardinals or White Sox series? Higher than that?) A tradition I don't want to see carried over? The crowd singing "Go Cubs Go" after a win. Can't. Stand. That. Song.