Today is a beacon of light in the seemingly long, hot, endless summer that is the offseason. My car thermometer informed me we were seeing weather in the mid-90s as I left work this afternoon - muggy enough to literally fog up my glasses. Hockey, despite the fact that I spent several hours this week in an ice rink, seems years and years away on days like this. But with the release of the schedule, basically arbitrary and somewhat useless as it is, comes a breath of cool air and hope. Here are some notables regarding the 2008/2009 Wings schedule:
- The Wings will ring in opening day at home in the Joe, raising their 11th Stanley Cup banner on October 9th. The game will be against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who the Wings play twice (a home and home) in preseason and afterward will not see again until next season. Nice touch setting up an Original Six rivalry game for opening day, NHL.
- The three Eastern conference teams that the Wings will play both home and away this season, as per the new schedule structure, are Pittsburgh (woo!), Buffalo (kay), and Atlanta (...woo). It's a great idea to pit the two past-season Stanley Cup hopefuls at each other twice on the season and give the fans in both cities the opportunity for a rematch, but forgive my lack of enthusiasm about the Atlanta Thrashers. (And at the exact moment I type this I discover that former Oiler and NPI favorite Marty Reasoner has signed with the Thrashers and am suddenly more interested.)
- By now it's common knowledge that the Wings will be playing the Chicago Blackhawks at Wrigley Field in this year's Winter Classic. The game will be held in Chicago at 1 pm on January 1st, forcing the Wings to forgo their usual New Year's Eve game, but they will host the Hawks at the Joe on December 30th. I for one am excited about the game and do intend to go - while I, like others, was hoping for a Detroit/Toronto outdoor game somewhere closer to home, the fact that it's an Original Six matchup, and that the Hawks are poised to be a much bigger threat this coming season than in the past, should make it a fun game to see, as will the locale. It will be interesting to see how the NHL adapts a ballpark into a venue for hockey, and hopefully the event can lure in more fans in Chicago. It was a huge shame to see the hockey market there fall into such shambles, but an outdoor game against the Red Wings can only serve to help. I do, however, hope they rename the event - whether it becomes standard operations to have one outdoor game per year, a game hardly seems 'classic' if it's effectively being referred to as the 'Winter Classic II'.
For those interested, although ticket information has not be released yet, Wings GM and mad genius Ken Holland has put in a request to have "a fairly substantial number" of tickets available for Red Wings fans to purchase, and the NHL has assured their compliance. More information as it becomes available!Another notable mention related to the schedule is that the Wings have adjusted some of their ticket prices for the upcoming season. Of note for poor recent graduates like myself, 1,869 upper bowl tickets have dropped to $33 from last season's $44 after studies indicated that many people, rather than forking out the $44, simply moved back a few rows and purchased $22 tickets, thus contributing to the plague of empty seats. Also affected were the first three rows off the glass, the prices of which have jumped from $85 to $125 per ticket.
With all these rumbling about the outdoor Wings/Hawks game, it occured to be the other day that we at NPI had absolutely no Blackhawks blogs on our blogroll. Coincidentally, I happened to check our linkbacks that very afternoon to see that we had in fact been linked to by both my fellow HLOGger Amy's My Tribe, and Clare's All Hawks Hockey. Make sure to check them out for some excellent divisional rivalry coverage!