By Phil Hecken (with a big assist from Teebz)
The NHL’s annual Winter Classic will get the new year started in style, as Blackhawks host the Red Wings at Wrigley Field. It was originally thought that the two teams would wear the throwback designs they wore in 1992, for the league’s 75th anniversary — Chicago’s “barber pole” design (which dates back to the the 1940s) and Detroit’s type-‘n’-stripes design. But instead they’ve decided to draw upon two other eras.
The Wings will be dressed as the 1926-27 Detroit Cougars (with winged wheel shoulder patches added), while the Blackhawks are going with a combination design: The jersey striping is based on the team’s 1936-37 uniform, while the crest is based on 1937-38 (and is a much simpler, retro version of their current crest). Both teams will wear the Winter Classic jersey patch.
As for Wrigley, organizers have spent the last few weeks preparing the ballpark. A portable 200-by-85-foot rink was driven in from Mobile, Alabama, and situated between first and third base. The rink will be located 112 feet from home plate and 288 feet from the center-field wall. There will be a second, smaller rink located in the outfield, which will be used by the Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois during the game (you can see it in this artist’s rendering). The ’Hawks and Wings will each enter the rink from the Wrigley’s dugouts, and the league has recreated the stadium’s famous outfield ivy (which would normally be withered and dry in winter), reinforcing the baseball feel.
Unfortunately, the Winter Classic is rife with advertising — on the ice (note that the center-ice version of the Winter Classic logo includes the Bridgestone logo, unlike the basic version) and in the form of Reebok’s annoying “Where’s Waldo?” contest (which Paul has already covered in detail). On the plus side, however, Chicago’s Patrick Kane has worked with Nike Bauer to create special limited-edition designs for his skates and stick. Only 88 skates and 88 sticks were manufactured (Kane wears No. 88), and Kane will personally sign and auction off some of them to raise money for breast cancer research.
Also of note: This commercial shows Brian Campbell holding the “Cubs Win” pennant, which normally flies over Wrigley following a Cubs victory. Several versions of this flag have been displayed recently at ’Hawks games, and it will be interesting to see the Wrigley tie-in during today’s game.
That video link and screen grab, incidentally, come courtesy of James Huening (JTH), who’ll be attending the game and will serve as Uni Watch’s on-site reporter. We hope he’s able to make use of some modern technology so he can bring us some first-hand reports of the game. Failing that, he’ll be reporting back after the game.
And now a quick word from Paul: If you see any Red Wings wearing eye black today, chances are it’s Farkas Original Eye Black, which I’ve written about several times in recent months. Company co-founder Brian Farkas tells me that Detroit equipment manager Paul Boyer requested 20 tins of the product for the Winter Classic and that the players will wear it if the weather is sunny. Should look much better than last year’s stick-on eye black.