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Blackhawks Fri Jan 09 2009

Thawing Out

Now that I've recovered both from the Winter Classic and the extended holiday break schedule (sadly, my camera, which I intended to use to document both the New Year's Day game and my skate at Wrigley Jan. 4, did not survive unscathed due to the cold and a broken lens), it's time to get back to the nitty-gritty of Blackhawks news.

First, the games themselves, in case anyone reading missed. Following double Detroit losses at Joe Louis and the winter wonderland of Wrigley Field, the Hawks rebounded with a strong 5-2 win over the Northwest leading Calgary Flames Sunday, then pummelled Phoenix 6-0 in the desert. Leading scorer Patrick Kane sat out both games with a high ankle sprain suffered against Detroit, but returned last night in Colorado, where the Hawks 44 shots weren't enough to tickle the twine, losing 2-1 to the Avalanche.

Kane did receive good news this week, being named as a starter to the Jan. 25 All-Star game along with center Jonathon Toews and defenseman Brian Campbell. Starters were voted on by fans, and Kane was the top vote-getter in the Western Conference with 917,551 tallies. All-Star reserves were named Wednesday, and while Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp are also deserving of a trip to Montreal, they were left off the rosters. With 3 Blackhawk players named starters, along with 3 members of the Anahim Ducks, there just wasn't enough extra spots due to league rules that all teams have at least one representative.

Other news announced New Year's Day (was there any in the Winter Classic coverage) was the possibility of the Blackhawks opening the 2009-10 season in Prague, possibly against the Florida Panthers. The New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning began this season with a pair of games in the Czech Republic this year, while the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators started the season in Sweden, and the NHL is hoping to make the European forays an annual event to help make the league a global entity.

Finally, the Hawks may be moving their practice facility into the city in a new building to be built a half-mile west of the United Center, at Madison and Western. The team currently makes a nearly 20-mile trek to the Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville on days when the United Center is unavailable, and a more local, new facility would allow for first-class amenities and make for an easier commute for the players, who mostly live in the city. One casualty of the proposed move may be the little-known but increasingly-attended open practice policy. In a season in which the Blackhawks have had a resurgence on the ice, attendance at the team's Edge practices has become increasingly congested with fans wanting an up close look and a chance to meet players. While no other Chicago sports team allows for practices to be open to the public that I know of, it's possible the distraction and hassle may bring the fan-friendly policy to an end.

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