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Friday, January 02, 2009

Winter Classic in review

Where do we go from here? The Winter Classic was an unqualified success. The City of Chicago, despite the political issues in the state, looked great. That alone was quite a feat for winter around here. And the game was great, except for the win by Detroit.

I would have liked to see the venue, which will be used through the weekend by neighbors, used for a college or junior event. I think it is too much to wish the AHL were able to use the venue too this weekend. A match in Wrigley between the Chicago Wolves and the Chicago Blackhawks affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, with the IceHogs the home team in Wrigley, would be amazing and give a boost to the minor league teams in this area.

The University of Notre Dame or one of the great schools in Michigan that produce great hockey players could have used the venue this weekend. The Chicago Steel, our junior team based in Bensenville. The list goes on.

The Chicago Blackhawks, under Bill Wirtz, almost killed hockey in this town. Less than 15 months after Bill Wirtz's death and the vitality of the franchise and the sport are renewed. This is an exciting hockey town again, with a Calder Cup champion playing in Rosemont and an NHL team finally in the hunt.

And that hunt made the game itself interesting. This wasn't a throw-away match. The two points were important to the Chicago Blackhawks.

I also loved the detail that the game was part of a home and home series. What is clear, however, is that the players need to be here for several days before the game is played. The media needs the players for stories. As a blogger, we had to work around that. We assumed we wouldn't have access and worked to find stories that were not in control of the NHL and the Blackhawks.

The venue itself only sat 41,000 or so people. Was that a bad thing? The fans were close to the action. They were letting go with the roar that once rocked the Chicago Stadium. The only thing missing was a light snow, make a note to mother nature that she gets an A- due to no snow falling.

The size of the venue isn't important if the story, the romance, is there. Jane would say I'm talking about the cheese. And cheese sells.

For Chicago, and for this region, this was a great moment. Although I sat at home watching, the work done before the game, the three articles in our special report and Jane Rickard's photography will always remain with me. I learned more about concussions, rooftops and the Bears than I think I had in total prior to this event. Still, it would have been nice for the team to recognize bloggers with a special event for them.

I expect this event will park Chicago in an enviable position versus the competing cities for the Olympic bid. The city, in the midst of a storm and the holidays, looked great. I've always told potential visitors to stay away in the winter. This winter event proved me wrong.

So, what next for the Winter Classic? Fenway or a New York venue? Like many others, I think the WC will not be held in Canada, perhaps excepting Toronto or Montreal, but not anywhere else for the moment. By which I mean for many years. A decade? This event is the primo NHL event of the season until the playoffs. The TV audience hasn't been announced, but it has to be huge. It needs to go somewhere like Wrigley or Rich Stadium again. It needs romance, good fortune, cheese and a great game.

For the last two seasons it has had that going for it. So, romantic venue, two teams that are struggling against each other and have a history, the cooperation of mother nature... Your guess of what is next is as good as mine. But I look forward to next New Year's Day.

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