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Winter Classic at Wrigley could be one hot ticket
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

With the Wrigley Field scoreboard and Chicago skyline in the background, the NHL and Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday held a press conference to announce details of the Jan. 1, 2009 Winter Classic game.

 

Courtesy of Chicago Blackhawks

Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz addresses the media Tuesday as Cubs officials and Blackhawks representative look on. A sellout crowd is expected when the Blackhawks host Detroit in the Jan. 1, 2009 Winter Classic.

 

Courtesy of Chicago Blackhawks

Blackhawks stars of the past and present were on hand Tuesday for the announcement of the Winter Classic game at Wrigley Field. From right are captain Jonathan Towes, rookie of the year Patrick Kane, and Hall of Famer Bobby Hull.

 

Courtesy of Chicago Blackhawks

The Wrigley Field electric sign advertises the Winter Classic matchup between the Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings.

 

Photo courtesy Chicago Blackhawks

Crane Kenney of the Chicago Cubs, right, presents NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman with a jersey Tuesday as members of the Blackhawks look on.

 

Courtesy of Chicago Blackhawks

Former and current Blackhawks players and officials strike a group pose outside Wrigley Field, which will become home to the Blackhawks on Jan. 1, 2009 when they host the Detroit Red Wings in the second Winter Classic game.

 

Courtesy of Chicago Blackhawks

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Published: 7/22/2008 4:55 PM | Updated: 7/22/2008 10:21 PM

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As a former Cubs executive, Blackhawks president John McDonough knows all about how tough it is to get a ticket to walk inside Wrigley Field.

McDonough believes the Winter Classic on New Year's Day at Wrigley Field between the Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings could take that difficulty to another level.

The National Hockey League is handling all details regarding tickets, but Commissioner Gary Bettman wasn't ready to disclose pricing or availability at a news conference Tuesday at Wrigley Field formally announcing the event.

"The NHL will make an announcement in the near future regarding ticket availability," McDonough said. "This is an event similar to the World Series, similar to the Super Bowl, in that the game is put on by the league.

"The best way, and at this time the demand has been great, is I would strongly encourage them to be full-season ticket holders. That's the fastest way to ensure them attending this game."

Also still to be determined is the exact location of the ice on the field. There was a mock rink constructed for Tuesday, stretching from shallow left field to shallow right field, but Cubs chairman Crane Kenney said the configuration could change.

One thing certain is the best box seats for baseball closest to the field will be priced cheaper than those higher or in the bleachers because of difficulty seeing the puck through the boards.

"The lower seats will not be our most desirable seats," Kenney said. "As you get closer to the field, what you'll rely on is a video board that will be hung in left field."

Bettman understands Wrigley Field might not be the perfect venue for hockey but that the North Side is where the league wanted to be with its small 41,000-seat capacity and all.

"If we would have gone anywhere else, then we wouldn't have been in historic Wrigley Field," Bettman said. "This, for us right now, we think is the perfect fit.

"Everybody should understand that as exciting and spectacular as this is going to be, this stadium wasn't designed for hockey games, but we're going to make it work."

Weather permitting, of course.

"It's not risk-free because of the weather, but based on our experience in Buffalo (last Jan. 1), we understand the issues and can manage them to the best or our ability," Bettman said.

"The average temperature on New Year's Day here is 35 degrees, which is perfect. If there is a blizzard we'll have to do a good job of moving the snow around. If the average weather takes place, and if there's a little bit of precipitation, we should be fine."

The Cubs' Kenney expressed no concerns that the portable rink brought in by the NHL would damage Wrigley's new playing surface.

"We talked to our head groundskeeper, Roger Baird, when we were sitting down discussing if we should really make a run on this, and we'll be fine," Kenney said.

"What I'm told is the grass will go dormant, and then they will lay down a board system for the rink that the league has purchased and it won't kill the grass or damage it in any way. When we pull it off we'll have a long lead time, obviously, if we do need to replace any of the grass. It's only a certain portion of the field. We won't be putting up any bleachers or anything like that."

The Hawks believe the Winter Classic is the ideal way to showcase their team to North America.

"This will introduce America to the new Chicago Blackhawks," said chairman Rocky Wirtz. "They will see a team that represents the new generation of hockey."