From the Catbird Seat... Blackhawks do hockey rightFor many years, kids all over Minnesota (and Canada, for that matter) waited for the start of winter so they could play hockey outdoors. Now, when it’s played outdoors it’s treated like it’s a big thing. And you know what? It is.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
For many years, kids all over Minnesota (and Canada, for that matter) waited for the start of winter so they could play hockey outdoors.
Now, when it’s played outdoors it’s treated like it’s a big thing. And you know what? It is.
I had the pleasure of attending the NHL’s Winter Classic at Chicago’s Wrigley Field on New Year’s Day, and whoever came up with the idea of the league going back to its roots once a year deserves a gold star in marketing.
Placing the game in Chicago was also a masterstroke. That idea took advantage of a couple of factors that definitely worked to the league’s favor.
First, Chicago knows how to do hockey right. Minnesota is the “State of Hockey,” yes, but go to a game in Chicago once and you’ll understand what I mean.
Blackhawks fans have cheered through the national anthem for years, first at the old Chicago Stadium and then at the new United Center. But as part of a crowd of 40,818 at Wrigley Field, I can honestly say that as much as I enjoy the game of hockey, the anthem was the best part of that day.
There was a first-class tenor with a first-class public address system belting out the anthem and by the time he was done the cheering was so loud you couldn’t even tell he was in the building.
But then there was the other reason putting the game in Chicago was a great idea: it gave the league the chance to showcase the Blackhawks. Yes, showcase them.
The team that was moribund and playing before a half-full arena two seasons ago is now filling the United Center – and putting 40,818 screaming fans into Wrigley Field – because they play the game the right way.
The Hawks are very young, very talented, and can flat out score goals. They have two of the best young talents in the game in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and the club is selling very expensive throwback jerseys at an absurd rate as a result.
Come on now, be honest – have you taken delivery on your Benoit Pouliot Wild jersey yet? Didn’t think so.
Their opponents on New Year’s Day, the Detroit Red Wings, are an example of what happens when an organization commits to excellence. Players like Marian Hossa, who the Wild would light Marian Gaborik on fire to get, take less money to play in a system, and with a team, that simply wins.
I admire the Red Wings for what they are. I admire the Blackhawks for what they will soon become.
Fans talk about Minnesota getting a Winter Classic when the Twins’ new stadium comes online. First, though, they need to put a real product on the ice – and watching them in their current free-fall, it’s pretty obvious that what passes for product these days is in need of a lot of work. It’s not about just saying you love the game – these days, and with money this hard to come by for fans, a team needs to prove it belongs.
The fans in Chicago have their team back. They’re lucky. The Wild fans, which have had one playoff run in team history to cheer for, have never really had a real team to back. Hopefully that will change soon – while the league celebrates the rebirth of a great franchise.
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Post-mortem on the Vikings: Dr. Seuss actually said it better than I could.
If you want to read the feelings of frustrated Viking fans, go to your five-year old’s bookshelf and pull out “Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now.” I can’t reproduce it because it’s plagiarism to do so, but you’ll get the idea when you see the little bald guy who wears a purple smock being told what to do and how to do it.
Zygi Wilf, take a tip from me: there is no way you will ever get the $600 million in public funding you want for a new stadium if you don’t read and understand Dr. Seuss.