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NHL Winter Classic 2009

New Year’s Day will have Chicago’s storied Wrigley Field showcasing the National Hockey League’s winter classic game – a regulation game of hockey played in the winter elements. What can be expected during this game?

The stadium should be alive with excitement as 41000 fans take in the seemingly annual event of an outdoor regular season hockey game. The Chicago Black Hawks will be hosting the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings and the game will be seen across the world via television. Without question this event has turned into a huge publicity and marketing boon for the NHL.

Is the fun and publicity worth the potential dangers though? Outdoor ice is subject to the elements and cannot come close to the quality an indoor arena can provide. While the game promises to be exciting, players simply cannot perform at full speed, as the risk of injury is far too great. As it stands, the respective general managers will be holding their breath each time a star player accelerates.

Last year’s spectacle was quite the storybook finish as the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Buffalo Sabres squared off at Ralph Wilson Stadium in front of a record 71217 fans. As the game went to a shootout, Sidney Crosby scored the winner to send everyone into hysterics. It really was something akin to a fairytale.

With the talent of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom on the Red Wings and the young and exciting Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brian Campbell, the game looks wonderful on paper.

Don’t get too excited just yet though. As we have witnessed in prior events, there won’t be, as per the reasons stated above, much speed or daring manoeuvres put forth by this wealth of talent. The electricity will be provided mostly by the hype and promotion the game brings. This is one of those events that it is just fun to be a part of weather you are a player on the ice or a fan in the stands. The end result of the game is really inconsequential as the coverage the NHL will receive far outweighs anything else.

That’s all find and dandy as long as nobody gets hurt.

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