NHL to hold Winter Classic at Wrigley Field
A pair of Original Six teams will square off outdoors as the Chicago Blackhawks host the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field on New Year's Day 2009, a game to be broadcast by Hockey Night in Canada.
The teams and locations for the next Winter Classic, as the game is dubbed, had been rumoured for several weeks.
"The NHL is delighted to bring its most historic rivalry to one of the most historic venues in sports," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement on Wednesday.
The game follows the successful 2008 edition at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo. Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins scored the deciding shootout goal in a 2-1 win over the Sabres on a snowy day in front of nearly 72,000 fans.
The game was watched on the CBC by the second-largest audience ever for an afternoon NHL game. It was also the most watched regular season game in the United States in over a decade.
NBC will again broadcast the game in the U.S. The game is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET.
The NHL's previous foray outdoors was the Heritage Classic in Edmonton on Nov. 22, 2003. Over 57,000 endured frigid temperatures at Commonwealth Stadium as the Oilers battled the Montreal Canadiens.
In contrast to the two recent outdoor NHL games, the 2009 edition will take place in a baseball stadium. And this year's setting could prove slightly more intimate, by outdoor standards. Wrigley Field tops out at 42,000 for baseball games.
Wrigley Field first opened its doors to the public in 1914 and two years later became the home of the Chicago Cubs.
There are players on the rosters of Chicago and Detroit that have outdoor experience. Brian Campbell, recently signed to a lucrative deal with the Blackhawks, played for Buffalo in January.
Ty Conklin of Detroit could have the unique experience of taking part in all three recent outdoor NHL contests. He was a member of Edmonton and then Pittsburgh for the previous two games.
Bettman acknowledged that Yankee Stadium in New York had been considered and that the NHL would explore the possibility of playing a future game at the team's new stadium being built in the Bronx.
The NHL scheduled is expected to release its full regular season schedule on Thursday. For the first time since before the 2005 lockout, all NHL clubs will face each other at least once. Each team will play 18 interconference games in 2008-09, up from 10 in recent seasons.