The Bears may have packed up and gone home for the season, but that doesn't mean Soldier Field will be sitting empty this winter.
In just a few weeks, its stands will once again be filled with screaming fans. They just wont be watching football. They'll be watching the first hockey games ever played under the lights at Soldier Field, as a part of the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic WinterFest.
Everything will kick off on Friday, Feb. 1 with a Blackhawks alumni event to benefit the Ronald McDonald House charities of Chicago and Northwest Indiana, said Drew Russell, the VP of Sports Properties for Intersport. It will feature appearances by Blackhawks greats Bobby Hull and Tony Esposito, who will be available for autographs, along with a number of other former Blackhawks players.
The rink will feature a series of high school matchups the weekend of Feb. 8-9, as well as a contest between the North and South Sides of the Chicago Fire Department. On Feb. 17, it will also be the site of the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic, where Notre Dame will face off against Miami (Ohio) and Wisconsin will take on Minnesota in back-to-back games.
"Kevin Gift and his team at Ice Rink Events have spent the last two weeks installing the stadiums first rink installed and getting the ice in skating shape. Its a lot of hard work to get this in," Gift said. "We've got 10 guys here; we've been working 10, 14 hours a day. The facility's been great to us, helped us out with whatever we needed."
The weather, on the other hand, hasn't been as kind. As temperatures in Chicago rise, the rinks chillers are working overtime to keep Gifts ice intact.
"There's about 46 miles of tubing underneath this rink and its all chilled at 6 degrees evenly right now," Gift said. "As the temperatures change, well turn the chillers up."
By constantly monitoring the ice, Gift's team should be able to keep the surface temperature of the rink around 22 to 23 degrees and have skateable ice for the rinks opening match between Latin vs. St. Ignatius. The full schedule of high-school games, as well as the game schedule for the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic is as follows:
Friday, Feb. 8
Latin vs. St. Ignatius, 3 p.m.
Evanston vs. Lincoln-Way, 5 p.m.
St. Viator vs. Benet Academy, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 9
Oak Park River Forest vs. Libertyville Vernon Hills, Noon
Mt. Carmel vs. Glenbrook South, 2 p.m.
St. Rita vs. Fenwick, 5 p.m.
New Trier Green vs. Loyola Academy Gold, 7 p.m.
Chicago Fire Hockey - North Side vs. South Side, 9 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 17
Notre Dame vs. Miami, Noon
Wisconsin vs. Minnesota, 3:30 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased for the Blackhawks Alumni event on Feb. 1 through the Ronald McDonald House. General admission tickets for the High School Hockey Faceoff can be purchased at the respective schools as well as online, with tickets for the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic, at Ticketmaster.com.