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TODAY

Thursday, November 21

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« Short Hops Classic Practice »

Blackhawks Tue Dec 30 2008

Winter Classic Warmup

As the hype builds toward the New Year's Day outdoor game at Wrigley Field, the Blackhawks take their franchise-record nine game winning streak to Detroit for another key battle with the Red Wings. The recent run has pushed the Hawks to within 4 points of first-place Detroit, and a win tonight can give the Classic the added storyline of a battle for the division lead.

Chicago has played Detroit tough this year, but was on the losing end of both games via a shootout, including the team's last loss Dec. 6 before the record streak began. The two Original 6 franchises have a storied history, with tonight's game being the 700th meeting between the two clubs, the most of any two teams. With the surging Hawks hot on the Wings heels, the next two games will have an added level of excitement.

Meanwhile, back at Wrigley, final preparations are being made for Thursday's Winter Classic. Despite the schizophrenic weather the Chicago area has seen the past week, the ice has been painted and will be ready for the two teams' practice tomorrow. The ivy (albiet fake) is hanging on the outfield walls, and the boards themselves have a brick pattern around it to add to the ambience. The NHL has also created a Spectator Plaza at Clark and Waveland, which will include live entertainment and interactive attractions. Screens will also be set up to allow fans to watch the team's practices New Year's Eve, and presumably, the game itself.

Not everything is rosy in Wrigleyville, however. While the allure of Wrigley Field is a large factor in why the game was awarded to Chicago, is the NHL is taking it a step too far with the news that "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" will be sung during the game? I'm all for making it a unique experience, and featuring the Friendly Confines and its traditions is a large part of what makes the game so exciting, but would any other sport deign to sing a song about another sport at its marquee event?

There's a point of taking the spectacle too far at the expense of the game itself, and a 7th-inning stretch rendition of a baseball song in the middle of the 3rd period is sending too much of a mixed message when the game between two top teams should be plenty thrilling on its own.

That said, I'm still getting excited to walk through the concourse and take in the view of the scoreboard, the rooftops, and a hockey rink mid-field New Year's Day. And the weather is shaping up to be nearly perfect.

 
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