The notion that the Winter Classic shouldn't be annual or that there can be too much of a good thing has always been rather laughable, at least at this point in the event's lifespan. First, because there are about a dozen untapped glamour venues (Fenway, Yankee Stadium, Happy Valley, whatever they're building in Minnesota) and matchups (the Rangers are still waiting for their turn) yet to be exploited.
But more importantly, because the Winter Classic is literally printing money for the NHL at an economically uncertain time; a time when the League is already planning to find "group rate" hotels for their traveling teams by 2010.
That Winter Classic windfall begins with, as the wise and powerful Yogurt once said, "moich-endizing." Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President of Marketing for the NHL, told us yesterday that Winter Classic '09 gear is selling out at the NHL store in Manhattan and at the League's retail partners like Dick's and J.C. Penney.
Who has the more popular of the two? Chicago's is "slightly outselling" the Detroit sweater, according to the NHL.
"Friendly confines" indeed. This just feels so much more personable than Ralph Wilson Stadium, which was a spectacle at arm's-length. All we need is for the grounds crew to head down the local arts and crafts store and buy some plastic ivy for those walls in the outfield. We want the total experience here. We didn't come to Wrigley for the bathroom troughs.
The view from the cheap(er) seats. A hockey game with that skyline in the background has got to be some sort of puckhead nirvana.
The Blackhawks give a commemorative jersey to the mayor of the Windy City. Nice looking sweater, even if it's the first time in the last century where a "Daley" isn't crooked in Chicago.
"Tonight on Lifetime, Mickey Rooney is Bobby Hull in the holiday classic 'Santa's Golden Jet,' in which a curmudgeonly old man learns the true meaning of Christmas at the Winter Classic."
This rink-side view was the closest thing we could find to what the players might see from the ice. Yes, they're professionals. Yes, they'll have been on this sheet prior to the game. But how the hell can't they be even a little distracted by the reality of their surroundings in this game?
On the hockey surreal-o-meter, skating in Wrigley Field has to rank up there with winning the Stanley Cup, collecting your own hockey card and the first time two teammates tag a pair of townies in the same motel hot tub.
Finally: "Tonight on Versus: The Professional Zamboni Riders champions tour, live from Chicago. Can Skip Spurjangles tame the wild Steaming Honda?"