With the 2014 Winter Classic less than 48 hours away, lets take a trip back to 2009 when the Blackhawks square off against the Red Wings in the second incarnation of the outdoor extravaganza at Wrigley Field.
It’s hard to believe that it has already been five years since this memorable event. At the time, the Blackhawks sat eight points behind the Detroit Red Wings in the Central Division and fourth place in the Western Conference with 47 points. Patrick Kane & Jonathan Toews were in their second seasons and winger Marty Havlat was leading the team in points. Wingers Kris Versteeg & Andrew Ladd were enjoying breakout seasons while on the defense Cam Barker was finally living up to his status as the third overall pick.
There was much excitement heading into the game from both an experiential and competitive standpoint. On one hand you have the atmosphere of an outdoor NHL game at Wrigley Field of all venues. Secondly, the Blackhawks were in the playoff mix for the first time in many years.
While the game itself didn’t end the way many Hawks fans wished, it served as a coming out party for the Blackhawks. A re-introduction to the national stage for the team and a preview for a Western Conference finals matchup between the two later that spring.
It was a joyous occasion and a beginning chapter in the current era of Blackhawks hockey as the team showed itself, despite losing 6-4, to be a legitimate threat. Something that at the time, wasn’t said about the Hawks in decades.
On a side note, it would be a crying shame not to mention the effort of Patrick Sharp lately. He was named the first star of the week in the NHL today and had perhaps the most impressive play of the year by a Hawks player as he stripped Matt Duchene on a breakaway (one of the fastest players in the NHL) and fed Jonathan Toews for a goal.