The snow was still falling nearly two hours after the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins exited the Soldier Field ice. The Stadium Series reached its inevitable conclusion, the Blackhawks displaying tremendous style through the snow en route to a 5-1 victory.
The Blackhawks will get back to their regular routine this week and return — finally— to the United Center on Tuesday when they host the Colorado Avalanche. But before we turn the page, we have a few observations from Saturday night’s Stadium Series game.
1. Salute to the ice crew. When NHL ice guru Dan Craig first got into town about two weeks ago, he talked about how important the 10-12 members of his ice crew were. He cited the Winter Classic, which was played in very snowy conditions. “When you hit a day like that, that’s why (we have so many helping): so we can carry on the game, it’s within the time frame we want it to be and everybody has a great time and the game is fantastic.” That crew deserved big kudos again on Saturday night as it fought the snow, which fell especially fast and furious in the first period. It was an unenviable task, and the crew did damn well under the circumstances.
2. So much for the weather hampering some of hockey’s most skilled players. One of the big outdoor-game criticisms is how the hockey can diminish in the elements. Well, on Saturday night it didn’t, at least for the Blackhawks. They had some pretty goals out there, bringing entertainment and their brand of hockey in swirling snow and wind.
3. Players loved every minute of it. We wondered if the Blackhawks would be frustrated by the weather, but no. Corey Crawford had no problems seeing the puck through the snow — “the puck stood out against the white,” he said. Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews celebrated their goals with Lambeau Leap-esque joy. Even those who thought it would be a tough night were won over by the end of it. “It was way better than I expected, especially with the snow,” Michal Handzus said. “It was very romantic, a lot of fun.” Outside of doing snow angels, there’s no doubt the Blackhawks soaked up the experience.
4. Speaking of Crawford, he had fun at defenseman Brent Seabrook’s expense after Seabrook’s own goal. “I don’t know if he feels that bad,” Crawford said to laughs. “He’s a good player. You give him an open chance like that, he’ll bury it.”
5. OK, I get it: everybody loves this stuff. I love the Winter Classic. I don’t really love having several outdoor games a year; I think it’s going to get stale, run its course. But after this inaugural Stadium Series, there’s no doubt the league, fans and players are happy with it. Will that happiness continue if there are more Stadium Series in the future? Who knows. But it’s obvious that, right now, there are plenty of fans of it. I’ll wave the white flag… for now.