From the Cubby Bear, a bar kitty-corner to Wrigley Field
During baseball season—even during another fruitless October—the beer tastes wonderful. But on Jan. 1, when the Blackhawks host the Red Wings at Wrigley (below), the drink will be Irish coffee. Demand for the Winter Classic is acute; tickets go on sale next month. On this day, as is often the case at Wrigley, the emphasis will be on the spectacle, not the score.
From NHL headquarters in New York
"A large part of the [Winter Classic's] ending up there had to do with the Blackhawks' revival," deputy commissioner Bill Daly says. "Three or four years ago I'm not sure [Chicago was] the type of environment we would have wanted." The league proclaims no favorites among its 30 franchises, but the success of an Original Six team in the NHL's third-largest U.S. market, and one of America's most avid sports cities, could goose national TV ratings this season.
From the Red Wings' rear-view mirror
The Blackhawks were closer than they appeared last season, winning their first four matches against archrival Detroit, the perennial Central Division champions. "[Their situation] reminds me of the mid-'80s, when Stevie Yzerman showed up [in Detroit]," says Red Wings G.M. Ken Holland. "You think of Toews and Kane, what they've done to that franchise.... I look for Chicago to have a tremendous year and [bring] a tremendous amount of excitement."
From Scotty Bowman's seat at the Blackhawks' suburban practice rink
The club afforded the 75-year-old Bowman (below) the chance to join his son Stan, Chicago's assistant G.M., who has been battling Hodgkin's disease. But would the elder Bowman have left Detroit if the Blackhawks were no-hopers? "My father," says a smiling Stan, who is named for the Stanley Cup, "is very competitive." Scotty, clear-eyed and owlishly wise, is making up his mind about his new team. The verdict: "If you don't have experience and you play an attacking style, young players want to make good plays," he says. "Sometimes that causes turnovers. You have to find a happy balance." Assuming those young players develop, Scotty adds, "they're two to three years away [from being a Cup contender]."
From the banks of the Chicago River
The sluggish green river is moving. The Blackhawks must be flying.