Wrigley Field: Ivy and ice
By Rick Gano
CHICAGO ó The atmosphere was electric. Bundled-up fans got a chance to extend their New Year’s Eve parties and watch hockey in a venerable stadium where baseball usually fills the seats.
If the setting was different, the results were the same Thursday. The Detroit Red Wings beat the Chicago Blackhawks again, this time out in the cold at Wrigley Field in the Winter Classic.
Players from both sides agreed on two things following Detroit’s 6-4 comeback victory: The weather and the condition of the ice had little or no bearing on the result, and the overall experience was a blast.
“It exceeded my expectations,” said Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom, who returned after missing two games with a sore ankle. “I don’t think the wind or playing outdoors bothered either team.”
Temperature at faceoff on an overcast day was a very bearable 32 degrees, even though a wind blowing at 18 mph made it a bundle-up afternoon for 40,818 fans at the second oldest baseball park in the major leagues.
“Holy Cow. It’s Cold,” read one sign, using the longtime catch phrase of the late Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray.
Pavel Datsyuk skated through two defenders for a go-ahead score in a three-goal second period, and the Red Wings scored twice in a 17-second span of the third to complete the comeback.
“I kind of had my mouth open in the beginning,” said Detroit’s Jiri Hudler, who had two goals in the second period to tie the game. “We were all looking at each other during the anthem ó ‘Wow, this is awesome.’ ”
The teams used the same locker rooms that the Cubs (Blackhawks) and visitors (Red Wings) use during the baseball season. The players trudged on covered skates through tunnels, up and down steps and across a tarp-like carpet to the rink. The Red Wings’ coaches kept their heads warm with fedoras.
Martin Havlat had a goal and two assists to help the Blackhawks go up 3-1. But the Red Wings rallied to beat the Blackhawks for the fourth straight time this season and second time in 48 hours.
“They are the best team in the world. They are a team that can just take over when they want to,” Chicago’s Patrick Kane said.
Even though most of the snow in Chicago had melted last week, the entire field was covered by the white stuff ó some of it compliments of a snowmaking machine. If a player happened to step out the back of the penalty box, he would nearly land on the far side of the pitcher’s mound.
The ancient scoreboard ó which is still hand operated for many of the baseball operations ó featured the day’s matchup of NHL games. There was also a temporary scoreboard below the big one, set up just for hockey.
Video screens in right and left fields were set up to help fans who couldn’t follow the puck from the lower seats.