Results tagged ‘ Winter Classic ’

Inside the Wrigley Field re-sod

FIELD RE-SOD upper.JPGFor those of you that remember last off-season’s intensive field reconstruction, this year’s project is much less intensive. Last year’s reconstruction leveled the crowned infield and installed 6,800 linear feet of pipe as part of a state-of-the-art drainage system.

Thumbnail image for INSIDE THE IVY LOGO.jpgThis year, as part of the agreement to host the Winter Classic at Wrigley Field, the NHL is paying for new sod to be installed. The harsh weather surrounding the event — which reached 60-degree highs and below-zero lows — left the field damaged in some areas. The work started last week and is nearing its completion, though heavy rains briefly delayed work while the bare field had to be covered with the tarp.

Carl Rice, senior director of facility management and information technology, shared some interesting details on this year’s field re-do:

? The sod is a bluegrass from Colorado. It’s trucked in already cut and rolled.


? The old grass was removed and required 30 trucks in all to take off-site.


? Roughly 100,000 square feet of new sod was brought in, and it just replaces the top inch of the field.


? After last year’s work, the field is now sand-based instead of dirt-based. “That’s why the layer underneath the grass looks yellow instead of brown, like your lawn would look at home,” Rice said.


— Sean Ahmed


Winter Classic through the lens of Stephen Green

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I have been to several different types of events at Wrigley Field: Bears games, Sting soccer games, concerts, numerous corporate events, a wedding, more baseball games than I can count, and now, an NHL Hockey game. Each one was very different and exciting to be at, but all were so special because of the place they were held.

Wrigley is magic no matter what is happening. It is a magical place to be at when there’s nothing scheduled and the stadium is empty, quiet and peaceful. Wrigley is almost bigger than any event itself. Even though our home away from home was transformed into a magical winter wonderland it was still hockey at Wrigley. But what an amazing spectacle it was to photograph and a terrific start to 2009.

— Stephen Green

(More photos published past the jump.)


The feeling from the inside

The Blackhawks and Red Wings just walked out of the home and visitor dugouts, respectively, and the crowd responded in appropriate fashion to each. The stadium is electric with just over nine minutes to go to the opening face-off.

Northwestern and Northern Illinois University marching bands are stationed in the bleachers, while video montages of Wrigley Field and hockey history play on the boards in left- and rightfield.
I’d say the ratio of Blackhawks winter hats and scarves to Red Wings’ are about five-to-one, no doubt because of all the Blackhawks season ticket holders in attendance.
The fireworks, stadium card stunts (HAPPY NEW YEAR and Red Wings and Blackhawks), F-18 flyover and intros have all made this a spectacle on par with the Super Bowl and WOrld Series. In fact, as I look out at the snow in between my centerfield seat and the rink, I can’t help but wonder if this doesn’t exceed even the best team sporting events in some way.
The wind is strong and swirling the flags, all replaced to be NHL-related ones for today.

Happy New Year!

Stay warm and enjoy your favorite ballpark on national television (NBC at noon Eastern).

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Photo taken Dec. 16, 2008.

Great views

Both teams have completed their practices, with the Red Wings using the last 45 minutes of their skate time to go around the ice with their families.

Players from both teams commented on how “surreal” the experience was, many of them reminded of playing outdoors as a kid. The ice was said to be fast and a bit chippy at the end — leading some players to think there might be a higher ratio of shots to passes than normal. Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell said that the heavy skating should help the ice crew really improve things for tomorrow.

But it was the sun that drew the most comments, as it created the shadows-to-bright spot trouble that we see at Wrigley Field during late summer afternoons. Some are expecting to switch to tinted visors if the sky ends up being clear tomorrow.

Finally, I mentioned how there are some great seats in the house. Here’s a picture from the upper deck a few days ago. Are you ready?

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Winter Classic practice day, photos

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My fingers have finally thawed enough to type up a post on the Blackhawks practice going on right now. The NHL crowded media members into the first base side of the rink to watch.

You’ll notice that the rink is under some heavy shadows today. After photographing last year’s field reconstruction and this year’s rink construction, I’ve come to appreciate that the sun just doesn’t get high enough behind home plate to spare the field from shadows. Expect the lights to be turned on tomorrow no matter if there’s sun or not.

It looks like the NHL have some neat TV tricks planned for tomorrow. There are red, white and blue cards for most of the seats around the stadium. We’ll have to see tomorrow how exactly they’ll be used.

Check past the jump for some more photos from today.

— Sean Ahmed


Winter Classic rink update

It started with a giant, refrigerated truck that dropped off the hockey rink two weeks ago. Today, we’ve got hundreds of NHL staff, workers and media milling about the ballpark, as the finishing touches are put on sports’ greatest venue.

Check out the NHL’s great time-lapse video of the last two weeks of construction:

I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of this work in progress and see the buzz grow from the moment the single, refrigerated truck pulled up to the outfield gates. And there are some fun changes you will see on game day:

? There are frames for the free-standing jumbotrons in front of the left- and rightfield foul poles.

? The historic Wrigley Field scoreboard has been adjusted to display period-by-period scores for all of the NHL’s out-of-town games. Because the manual scoreboard doesn’t have the capability to display a running game clock, an auxiliary board has been constructed in centerfield.

? The faux brick wrapping around the outside of the boards looks great–vintage Wrigley.

? I expected the upper deck seats to be great for watching hockey and all the lower deck ones to be too far and low of an angle for a great view, but I am impressed with how well the hockey rink fits the seating arrangement. Even a couple hundred feet away in the bleachers, people will be able to see the action on three-quarters of the ice.

? All of the commemorative flags and player banners have been removed from the roof and concourses. They have been replaced by NHL teams and players.

Mike Huang, Steve Green and I will be covering the game over the next couple days, so stick with us for photos, quotes, exclusive info and reactions. Tell us in the comments if you plan on attending or watching the game on TV!

— Sean Ahmed

Frozen confines

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Yesterday was an unusually busy off-day at the “Friendly Confines,” which was officially named host of the 2009 NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day.

All it took was seeing the outline of a rink just beyond second base, dwarfed by the entire diamond, to visualize how memorable this event will be.

I think Cubs chairman Crane Kenney said it best: “We have a motto around here, and that is, ‘The best games are played in October.’ So maybe for one year we’ll have to suspend that and say maybe the best games are played in January, as well.”

Blackhawks at Wrigley 072208004.jpgAs much as yesterday’s on-field press conference was a media event, NHL officials and Blackhawks players and front office staff took tours of the stadium and repeatedly said how amazed they were by the lush grass.

It was great to see former Cubs president John McDonough, who was beaming the whole morning. It was his first time back inside Wrigley Field since he jumped to the Blackhawks in December. “It’s surreal to be back,” John told me. “I got chills just walking into it.”

I asked him about what he hopes this event will offer to Wrigley Field and the neighborhood, which also stand out as one of the best in sports. He said that he envisions it really incorporating the packed crowd and enthusiasm that Cubs fans offer on a daily basis but that Blackhawks fans will make their mark with their signature applause-filled National Anthem.

The big question remains where the rink will go. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that architects and engineers will “spin” the rink all over Wrigley Field to ensure the best sightlines. No location has been ruled out, and he said that it could even be placed over the pitcher’s mound by constructing an elevated platform. Looking at the upper deck seats, McDonough reminisced about sitting in the balcony at old Chicago Stadium.

And in that way, it’s amazing that a first-time event can feel so classic, so at home at Wrigley Field.

Blackhawks at Wrigley 072208062.jpgSome memorable sights:

? Hawks players wearing Cubs hats and grabbing bats in the home clubhouse, squeezing the grips and taking some slow half-swings.


? Bobby Hull saying “Go Cubbies!” as he walked on stage with fellow greats Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito. Someone in the crowd pleaded that the trio not sing, referring to their rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” earlier this summer. A smiling Hull responded, “Thank you for that sitting ovation.”


? Several players saying they were ready to start playing on the Wrigley Field grass right now.


? A posed face-off between young phenoms Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane at home plate.

The Winter Classic logo, draped across the centerfield bleachers, incorporating the trademark Wrigley Field marquee as the top half of the log.

— Sean Ahmed