NHL going back outdoors to Wrigley Field for Winter Classic

By The Associated Press

CHICAGO – Wrigley Field is going to be the frozen confines on New Year’s Day 2009 when the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings meet the Chicago Blackhawks outdoors in the home park of the Chicago Cubs.

It will be the NHL’s second Winter Classic. Jan. 1 in Buffalo, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 before a crowd of 71,217. Snow fell during the game.

“We expect interest to be on an international level for this once-in-a-lifetime event,” Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz said.

The game will be televised nationally on NBC.

The matchup will be the 701st meeting between the Red Wings and Blackhawks – no two NHL opponents have played more regular-season games against one another than the two fierce rivals.

It will mark the third regular-season outdoor game in NHL history. The Edmonton Oilers hosted the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 22, 2003.

“The NHL is delighted to bring its most historic rivalry to one of the most historic venues in sports,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said.

Wrigley Field is the second-oldest baseball park in the major leagues behind Boston’s Fenway Park. Wrigley Field opened in 1914. The park hosted two Sting concerts during the All-Star break of 2007 and patches of the outfield grass were torn and roughed up. The game could also be competing with college football bowl games for viewers.

“We’ve been a candidate to play in this for a long time and everybody in our organization is excited about being a part of what is becoming an annual outdoor classic,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to promote our game, our league and our team and have a one-in-a-lifetime experience at the same time.”

Bettman also said the league will continue discussions with the New York Yankees and the city of New York to perhaps bring an outdoor game to the new Yankee Stadium that opens next year.