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Wrigley on Bettman's radar
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 3/6/2008 12:19 AM

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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made no promises Wednesday, but he did give the Blackhawks hope that they will be one of the next teams to host an outdoor game.

During a news conference at the United Center, Bettman said there likely would be another outdoor game next season and that the Hawks were getting strong consideration to host it, possibly at Wrigley Field.

"My guess is we'll do one next year," Bettman said. "But I don't have participants and I don't have a timetable. There has been no shortage of interest."

Bettman listed nine teams, including the Hawks, that have asked to host the next "Winter Classic."

It's believed the NHL's decision will come down to the Hawks or the New York Rangers, who would like to stage Yankee Stadium's final event.

Bettman praised new Hawks president John McDonough for his persistence in trying to bring the game to Chicago.

"John has been passionate, and that's an understatement, on behalf of both the city of Chicago and the Blackhawks," Bettman said. "He has made sure that the interest, the importance and the feasibility is something that is front and center on my radar screen.

"As we do these games in the future, obviously Chicago will make a lot of sense at some point in time. As part of what I've described as the revitalization of the franchise, I understand how this could fit in as a nice piece of this puzzle moving onward and upward."

As for Wrigley Field as a possible venue, Bettman didn't hide his intrigue.

"We haven't done any due diligence and I can't tell you how the sight lines would be," Bettman said. "But when I went through the list of adjectives of things we try to embrace to create (the outdoor game) in a special way, obviously we would have to take a very serious look at Wrigley because I think that could be a very special event in a very special venue."

McDonough has had preliminary talks with the Cubs about hosting a hockey game on the North Side.

"I can only imagine how popular this would be," said McDonough, who also has asked the NHL to consider the United Center for a future All-Star Game and entry draft.

First impressions: Hawks coach Denis Savard likes Andrew Ladd more and more every game.

"Ladd is really growing on me," Savard said. "I like his game. I like how he's playing and how he's going to the net. He's a big body."

Ladd had 2 goals and an assist in his first four games with the Hawks since being acquired from Carolina for Tuomo Ruutu.

Wait and see: The Hawks still don't know when to expect Nikolai Khabibulin back in the lineup.

Khabibulin, who has missed the last seven games with back spasms, got a cortisone shot Monday to help the situation.

"We'll have to see how that works," general manager Dale Tallon said. "Normally those things take 48 hours to work."

Tip-ins: With a first-period assist against Anaheim, Patrick Kane became the first Hawks rookie to get at least 40 since Jeremy Roenick in 1989-90. … Dave Bolland was unable to play because of a sore hip. … Robert Lang returned after missing four games with a sore back.