While the city of Chicago is thawing out from it’s fifth-snowiest winter, Soldier Field is getting frozen. On March 1st, the Chicago Blackhawks will make their way to the lakefront, swapping the ice rink at the United Center for gridiron of Soldier Field that is home to the Bears. They will host the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of the NHL’s “Stadium Series.”
The Stadium Series is different from the Winter Classic games, where those are typically played on New Year’s Day. This is another idea from the NHL to have more outdoor games after seeing how successful the Winter Classic games have been with the fans. Tickets for the Blackhawks-Penguins game sold out in less than 24 hours after going on sale December 11. Although the Chicago Blackhawks have played outdoors in the Winter Classic against the Detroit Red Wings in 2009, this will be much different than playing in January at Wrigley Field, thanks to the extreme winter the city hasn’t seen in a couple decades.
The NHL is closely monitoring the weather conditions as March 1st gets closer. The average weather in March is about 41 degrees, but the weather this year has been a mix of heavy snow, bitter cold, and now temperatures in the upper 40s and rain, and back to cold. Dan Craig, who is the league’s operations director, is fully aware of the challenges that nature will provide. In fact, on Thursday when they start to build the stage, Chicago will be getting at least an inch of rain. But he is not worried about the elements, and noted that the other cities they have played have had challenges of their own and still pulled it off.
But Chicago Blackhawks fans need not to worry. For the next couple days, crews will be constructing the outdoor rink, laying pans and pipes down, and filling the rink with water to freeze. The pipes will work to make sure the ice stays at the proper temperature of 22 degrees, and after that, all that’s left is to wait for the 60,000-plus fans to see their team swap the United Center for Soldier Field. These two teams will be ready to get back into action after spending some time on Olympic break, with both in the hunt for the playoffs.
The Stadium Series will be on NBC at 7pm Central time, giving the defending Stanley Cup champions a huge audience on television. And if the United States hockey team wins a medal in Sochi, it would only bring bigger hype to the Stadium Series, as Blackhawks star Patrick Kane and Penguins players Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik going from teammates to enemies. The only tickets left are either through Ticketmaster for the top level, or head over to StubHub to grab a lower-level seat for about $300. The Stadium Series is definitely one of the biggest events of the year, and whether sitting at home, or experiencing the thrill live, this Chicago Blackhawks game will be one to not miss, especially watching it at historic Soldier Field instead of the United Center.
By Renayle Fink
Comcast SportsNet Chicago