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Hawks want to play ... at Wrigley
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

Blackhawks president John McDonough is trying to secure an outdoor NHL game at one of the most famous sporting venues in America -- Wrigley Field.

 

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Published: 2/20/2008 1:44 PM | Updated: 2/20/2008 8:23 PM

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When NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Monday that the Blackhawks' request to host the league's next "Winter Classic" outdoor game was intriguing and interesting, he wasn't kidding.

The Hawks want to play the game at Wrigley Field, which has been confirmed by multiple sources, including one from the Cubs saying the two organizations have discussed the idea.

Talk about taking intriguing and interesting to a whole other level.

If the Hawks could pull it off -- and there's no reason to believe they can't get Wrigley Field, considering president John McDonough's connections to the Cubs as their former president -- it's a presentation, a mega event, the NHL couldn't possibly refuse.

McDonough said Wednesday he would prefer to wait to speak to exactly what the Hawks presented to the NHL, but it's clear that historic Wrigley Field would be the club's first choice of venue.

"In the event we are fortunate enough to secure the game, I'm confident there would be strong interest from all our local venues and we'd have to take a look at it," McDonough said.

This is a public-relations opportunity that doesn't fall into the NHL's lap every day. There's the skyline; the neighborhood; the lake, frozen probably; fans bundled up watching Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane from the rooftops, hopefully with some snow falling. One great camera shot after another.

If the ratings for last month's outdoor game in Buffalo had the NHL doing cartwheels, NBC has to be drooling at the thought of the Hawks playing in Wrigley Field, one of the most famous venues in America. It's understating it to say it would be an event.

While it was first believed that Soldier Field was the venue pitched to Bettman recently by McDonough when the two men met, we should have connected the dots and guessed Wrigley Field.

It's so John McDonough, who could turn out to be the most important acquisition by the Blackhawks since Tony Esposito came over in a trade from Montreal almost four decades ago.

If the Hawks don't get the outdoor game next season, it could go to the New York Rangers, who have pitched a game at Yankee Stadium to the league, according to an NHL source.

The Rangers might stand a better chance at having their request granted since Yankee Stadium is going into its final season of existence.

Bettman was noncommittal earlier this week when asked about the possibility of the Hawks getting the next outdoor game.

"Whether or not Chicago is first out of the box or a little bit further down the road isn't anything we've focused on yet," he said, "but I am aware of the interest and I do believe at the appropriate time and under the appropriate circumstances, it's something we should give very strong consideration to."

It would seem Bettman and the NHL can't go wrong, deciding between Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium. But the NHL is excited about the Hawks being relevant again, so maybe that will boost their chances.

For the last decade, the Hawks didn't matter in a league they helped create. Awarding the franchise the next outdoor game and playing it in Wrigley Field would be the perfect way to say welcome back.

tsassone@dailyherald.com