New Year’s at Wrigley!

Yesterday, Gary Bettman finally ended months of anticipation by announcing that your Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings will take on the Chicago Blackhawks on January 1, 2009 live from Wrigley Field. Reading that sentence back over would probably read well for an SAT question:

Which of the following is most shocking to read?

A) Gary Bettman actually thought fans-first when making a decision

B) Yes, Detroit did win the cup – you were not dreaming

C) The city of Chicago has enough fans that still watch hockey

D) I wonder if this is Wings-Blackhawks game no. 28 for the season

E) All of the above

In what will actually be the 701st meeting between these two Original Six organizations, 94-year old Wrigley Field will host the third official NHL regular season game in history. As Bettman stated during his news conference, the match-up features “the most storied rivalry in hockey”. Yes, Wings-Leafs, Leafs-Habs, Bruins-Rangers, the winged wheel and the Indian head represent the pinnacle of Bettman’s history books.

Commish aside, what a great move for the NHL to take the game to a venue different than the ordinary locales. Why couldn’t potential Michigan venues include Michigan Stadium, Ford Field (see Frozen Four) or even Hart Plaza? Other intriguing locations could include Times Square, Rockefeller Center, The National Mall and Fenway Park. I like where this concept has gone, and just as the Red Sox/Dodgers from the LA Coliseum proved, hybrid sports venue combinations have potential. Events like this bring sports access to new fans and provide some fresh excitement, something the NHL is lacking. While your youthful game of pond hockey did not have a nearly century-old ballpark around it, the fun of playing in the cold (Edmonton 2003) or snow (Buffalo 2008) is a really neat idea.