You knew it was coming. Radio reports indicated Tuesday the Blackhawks will play the Detroit Red Wings in an outdoor game at Soldier Field sometime within the next two years.
On New Year's Day, the Penguins-Sabres game played outdoors at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo was a tremendous success, and I'm sure the Blackhawks took notice. I watched some of that game on TV, and it was great theater. Snow coming down, players having to deal with windy conditions. Not stuff you would normally think about when watching a hockey game.
The idea of playing an outdoor game is certainly a slick marketing ploy. But ultimately, will it work? It depends on two things: 1) The ticket prices and 2) Whether the Blackhawks start winning.
My initial reaction is I'd love to attend such a game. But I'm not spending $75 a ticket or whatever to watch the Blackhawks get the crap kicked out of them by Detroit. As a Blackhawks fan, I hope team president John McDonough knows I'm not going to show up just for the ambience or the "fan experience."
Also, a good chunk of those Soldier Field seats are going to be bought up by Detroit fans. That's gonna lead to some fisticuffs and some arrests. Hope the Chicago police are on the ball that day. Personally, I think the Hawks should play Montreal in an outdoor game. That would keep the Detroit hooligans away, while still providing fans with an attractive Original Six matchup.
Outdoor game or not, the Hawks need to start winning if they want to regain their market share over the long haul. The team has been hitting the public over the head with marketing this year, but the bottom line is the Hawks are still second-to-last in the NHL's Western Conference.
Give us a contending team, and Chicago could fill Soldier Field three times over for hockey.