Monday, January 5, 2009

According to Kurz...A Winter Wonder Classic

Meet Matt Kurz. He's a great friend and teammate of mine from Chicago. He and I have had numerous talks about sports and the like and I've always enjoyed his insight. For that reason, I've decided to give him a column on my blog. For his first post, he wrote about his experience at Wrigley Field for the NHL "Winter Classic" between the Detroit Redwings and the Chicago Blackhawks. Enjoy.

I negotiated my way across ice covered Clark and Addison Streets, through the sidewalks full of excited fans who celebrated in neighborhood bars that morning, and headed my way into Wrigley Field. Once inside, I noticed that their were Blackhawk jerseys that read Makita, Toews, Kane and Hull, instead of the normal Cubs jerseys stitched with last names such as Wood, Sandberg, or Lee.

Today was not a normal day at Wrigley - instead of “the Friendly Confines,” it was “the Frozen Confines.” Today was the 2009 “NHL Winter Classic”, which is a game played outdoors that the NHL puts on once a year in desired locations. The first year duo of Blackhawks president, John McDonough and owner Rocky Wirtz convinced NHL commissioner Gary Bettman that Chicago and Wrigley would be a perfect fit for this special event.

I sat down in seat 102, in section 413, located on the second tier along the third base line. I had a perfect view of everything. Inside Wrigley the rink stretched from first to third base and had red bricks painted on it to match the interior of the ballpark. Today’s matchup included two “Original Six” teams, the Blackhawks versus their hated rivals, the Detroit Redwings. It was the young talent of the Hawks, which included All Stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane against the experienced, older players of the Wings like Chris Chelios and Niklas Lidstrom.

Both teams entered the rink side by side through fog and pyrotechnics and were met with the chant of “Detroit Sucks!” The stadium was full to capacity of approximately 40,818 boisterous fans.

In the first period the Hawks took control, scoring two goals and a third later on, to take the lead of 3-1 at the first intermission. That was the last time the home team would be in control of this game.

The Redwings rallied back to win the game 6-4. A late Blackhawks goal from defensemen, Duncan Keith closed the gap, but was not enough.

"They're the defending Stanley Cup champs for a reason," Keith said. "At the same time, we all think we're a good team, and hopefully, if we keep improving, we'll be like them."

The loss put Chicago eight points out of first place in the West Division, but the game was a success.

"It was a special place to be and play," Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville said. "And certainly we are not happy with the way it ended up, but it was a privilege to be here today."

NBC reported the game this year’s Winter Classic drew an overnight rating of 2.9 and a 6.0 share - the best showing for the league in almost 13 years. With events like this commanding national attention, the NHL is fighting its way back to being a premiere sport. So, here’s to an amazing 2009 Winter Classic. I anxiously look forward to another one in 2010, wherever it may be!

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