Late Winter Classic Notes

After dealing with in-laws all day I figure I’ve pretty much run out of time to put down some thoughts about the Winter Classic experience. I say experience because that’s really what it was. It was the NHL’s big event and it didn’t disappoint.

To save time, I’ll just mention a couple things that have stuck with me. I’ve got a set of Winter Classic photos posted in the multimedia section of the site.

I stopped for gas just east of Battle Creek on I-94 sometime around 9:30 PM on my way home. I got out of the car still wearing my Winter Classic scarf and lanyard over a vintage Steve Yzerman jersey (1991-92 edition, not the new throwbacks). Before I even had time to get the gas pumping a guy had come over from the other side of the pump to ask me if I had gone to the game. He was excited enough about the event that he was willing jump out of a warm car into the cold and ask a total stranger about it. I get on the NHL all the time but good on them for creating that kind of interest.

Also of the “lengths people will go to for this game” note… The two guys to my left during the game were a ‘Hawks fan and a Flyers fan who flew down from Edmonton to go to the game. It’s a testament to their dedication and the game’s draw that fans would make that kind of trip.

It was slightly disappointing to hear the ‘Hawks fans, even as their team was hosting such a positive event, repeatedly resorting to the “Detroit sucks” chant. I just don’t get some teams’ fans’ obsession with hating their rivals more than cheering for their own team. I don’t know why I expected better just because this game was different but I did. Every Chicago fan I talked to was great fun, though. There are places where it’s not safe to be a road fan but this was not one of them.

The question I was asked most by family afterwards was “Was it worth it?” Absolutely. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Chelios in for Winter Classic

According to Khan and MacLeod, Chris Chelios will be in the Red Wings’ lineup for tomorrow’s Winter Classic.

Malik quotes them both.

It’s only fitting that he gets a chance to play. It’s too bad that it’ll come at the cost of one of the forwards. Like MacLeod, I think Mikael Samuelsson could be a convenient scratch if he’s still battling the flu. If not Sammy, do you reward veteran Kirk Maltby by letting him play or do you keep Tomas Kopecky in the lineup as (in my opinion) he’s been the better grinder this year?

Wings, ‘Hawks to Wear “Unique” Jerseys in Winter Classic

MacLeod has posted a press release confirming that the Red Wings and the Blackhawks will wear “unique” jerseys at the Winter Classic:

The NHL Winter Classic 2009 jerseys will be unveiled during the broadcast of the game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, Oct. 25. WGN-TV and FSN Detroit will broadcast the game, which begins at 7:30 p.m. CT (8:30pm ET) and marks the first time the two clubs will meet this season. The Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings each will wear a unique, one-time-only jersey while playing in the NHL Winter Classic 2009 at Chicago’s historic Wrigley Field on New Year’s Day.

That they’re being described as “unique” and not “throwback” has me a little worried. I want to see both teams wear their 1991-92 alternates. I also wouldn’t mind seeing the Wings in a version of their 1926-27 sweaters.

Scheduling Complaints

The Red Wings released their 2008-09 schedule today and – not surprisingly – I’m not happy with it.

I’ve said before that I don’t like the Wings having to give up both their traditional New Years Eve game and the ability to host their own outdoor game to take part in Chicago’s Winter Classic so I’ll ignore that and rant about a few other things.

Remember how the new schedule was going to allow Detroit to play a home-and-home with three Eastern Conference teams? Turns out that wasn’t quite true. They play the Penguins, Sabres and Thrashers both at home and on the road but none of those game are back to back.

There are only three home-and-homes all season. One against the Edmonton Oilers and two against the Chicago Blackhawks (one includes the Winter Classic and the other ends the season). In all three of those series’ the Detroit game is the first game.

The Red Wings play on back-to-back nights fourteen times this season. Every single time includes travel between games, unless you don’t count the trip between Anaheim and Los Angeles that makes up two of those sets. Either way, at no point in the season do the Wings play two nights in a row waiting for their opponent to come to them.

Detroit has a five-game road trip in late-October/early-November and a six-game trip (split by the All-Star Game) in January. Their longest homestand? Four games (twice in December and again in late-March/early-April).

I’m not saying other teams don’t have it worse (the Blackhawks play on back-to-back nights with travel 15 times this season) but this just can’t be the best schedule possible.

NHL Officially Announces Wings-‘Hawks as Winter Classic

The NHL officially announced today that the Red Wings and Blackhawks will meet at Chicago’s Wrigley Field for the 2009 Winter Classic.

The game, to begin at 1:00 PM Eastern on New Years Day 2009, will be part of a home-and-home series that will see the Blackhawks visit Detroit on December 30, 2008.

The Red Wings’ annual tradition of a New Years Eve game will be disrupted by the series. The Wings had played on December 31 in every non-lockout year since 1946, except for 1996.