Red Wings 6, Blackhawks 4
Winter Classic at Wrigley Field
Jan. 1, 2009

It’s probably no surprise many of the Blackhawks bandwagon fans grew up Cub fans. Not really knowing how to feel about this “next year,” it seemed convenient there came another young team to latch these dreams we’ve had onto. Awesomely convenient.

The Winter Classic may have been the perfect scenario for testing this new faith. But as the Cubs showed their fans by not winning it all exactly 100 years later — things don’t always work out so perfect.

This game may have seemed over-hyped, but outdoor sporting events are a crucial part of life in the Midwest for a few reasons: We’re proud of the elements we bear (ask any shirtless guy at a Bears game), building a dome to block our view seems ridiculous (because the Sears Tower is still the tallest building to us) and you just can’t contain sport’s greatest fans.

And when you pour hockey fans into the world’s biggest baseball stage, madness is sure to ensue. There were fans on the icy rooftops, the puck bounced like a tennis ball through a whistling Wrigley wind, and the players sported hoods, long underwear, and thermoses full of chicken soup from their mothers. Unfortunately, the madness on the ice wasn’t the same kind that December had brought for the Hawks.

Ben Eager showed that the guys weren’t about to take any crap when he took a puck off the wall, turned and scored the Hawks’ third goal of the first period, all the while being pushed and shoved. Martin Havlat and Kris Versteeg had multiple points each and continue to play well, and Dustin Byfuglien did his part, attempting to goad Wings players into fights. But after those 20 minutes were up, the Red Wings showed why they travel with the Cup.

“Our kids’ heads just left the game,” said coach Joel Quenneville. “Five minutes into the second period most of the guys were asking if they could go sledding out in left. And Troy [Brouwer] was packing snowballs to throw at the refs.”

The best memory most Hawks fans will take from the game might be Brent Seabrook checking Dan Cleary over the wall and into the Hawks bench. The Wings were subsequently penalized for too many men on the ice after he finally popped back out. At least fans got one “Hah!” out of the game.

Skaters looked more sluggish than usual late in each period as the rink was ground into snow. This being an afternoon game, many young Hawks may have been ready for their naps, and the Red Wings took advantage of the ensuing lazy defense to score goals quickly.

But whatever the final score today, the Blackhawks leapt onto a national stage with energy, and have taken the next step at winning back Chicago. On this New Year’s Day curses and failures froze in time as two of the best squads in hockey duked it out. To see a team we’re all so enthused about play below the skyline that’s come to represent our city was exhilarating.

Teams like the Red Wings and San Jose Sharks are still possibly at a higher level than the Hawks, but bandwagon fans will tell you that they’d hop onto the backs of our rising stars over an increasingly-arthritic Chris Chelios any day.

The Blackhawks will play their next game a little older and a little wiser.  Let’s get ’em in the playoffs.

Number of the game: 5
The number of unanswered goals by the Red Wings when Chicago’s defense became nonexistent.  In the Windy City everything starts with a ‘D’.

Quote of the Game
“The Hawks are rolling, but not quite up at the level of the defending Stanley Cup champions.” An excellent point from WGN’s David Kaplan. Did we expect them to be? Yes, of course we did. But be patient, Chicago – this is the only team that has managed to beat your Hawks in over a month.

Up next for the Blackhawks
Sunday, Jan. 4 at 6 p.m. the Calgary Flames — who fell victim during the streak — will visit the United Center.

heckler editorial staff