Thursday, January 01, 2009

Winter Classic 2009 (Old-time hockey, Part II)

Pro hockey fans in the U.S. know we’re part of a small, but hardy minority. Given our minority status, you’ll forgive us if New Year’s Day has taken on a whole new context, as the National Hockey League stages its second consecutive Winter Classic, taking its high-octane and spectator-friendly sport back outdoors.

This year the setting is Chicago, and one of baseball’s most hallowed shrines, Wrigley Field. The opponents, the hometown Blackhawks and the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Red Wings from Detroit, are two of the leagues original six teams. What adds intrigue to what I think is a great marketing move by a league not known for its ability to promote its sport, is Chicago’s return to NHL prominence, after a decade of futility for the once proud hockey franchise.

[Readying the ice surface, outdoors at Wrigley]

Last year’s outdoor maiden voyage drew the NHL’s best television ratings in over a decade, something that mustn’t be ignored for a league that has a paltry television revenue cache compared to rival leagues in football, baseball and basketball.

I stumbled upon last year’s game by accident. This year, my interest in pro hockey has been heightened by the revival of another original six franchise, the “hometown” Boston Bruins.

Come this afternoon, I’ll be one of hockey’s faithful, along with the curiosity seekers, perched in front of our televisions, watching hockey played au naturel, the way many of us remember the sport from our own days of pond hockey prowess.

For a local's up-close-and-personal take, I leave you with Wrigley Wrants.


Mark LaFlamme said...

Got the game on right now. Knotted up at one right now in temperatures down near zero. That's balls, man. Remember pond hockey? Couldn't feel your feet for hours once you got the skates off.
I'm torn on this one. Love the Blackhawks, love Detroit.

Jim said...

A hockey fan, also; f*ckin' eh!

Yeah, pond hockey was a big part of growing up in good 'ole Lisbon Falls. Actually played quite a bit of pond hockey a decade ago when my son was in his teens and a hockey player in his own right. Even had a rink in our yard for a few years before that, with an old rigged up street light I scored from working at CMP at the time.

It's turning out to be a great hockey game, also.