Written by Tim Hoffman Thursday, 01 January 2009 19:43
The NHL held an exhibition game outdoors yesterday in their 2009 Winter Classic, pitting the Detroit Red Wings against the Chicago Blackhawks in a game of football at Soldier Field. The league made the decision to have an annual football game each year in order to finally get a few minutes of airtime on SportsCenter, and to spark interest in the sport they play the rest of the time, something called hockey. They played to a tense 0-0 standoff in what might be called a defensive smash-mouth football game. You might also just say simply that neither team had a clue what they were doing.
The contest was plagued by errors, as both teams admittedly had not ever played the sport before. Chicago made an impressive drive in the first quarter. But when they completed a long pass that should have gone for a touchdown to Patrick Sharp, instead of running it into the endzone, he ran in circles shouting "Where's the goal?! Where's the goal?!" until being tackled and fumbling the ball.
Detroit looked to be making some offensive progress in the second quarter, but when they got down into field goal range they started complaining to the refs about no-calls on icing penalties. They were flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. Things got even uglier in the 3rd quarter when Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville realized he had been given a challenge flag, and began throwing it after every play.
"They gave me this cool little yellow hacky sack thingy," said Quenneville during the game. "I'll be damned if I'm not going to use it every time something doesn't go our way!"
The Red Wings got within 5 yards of the goal line at the end of the 3rd quarter, but the television coverage went to a commercial and when they came back both teams had left the field and already were in the locker rooms. NHL Officials attempted to explain to the players that there were 4 periods in football. But, when fans realized they might actually come back out and play more they began to chant "Make it end, make it end!", and thankfully for all those watching, the contest was declared a 0-0 tie.
So did the game do anything to sway people into watching a little more NHL in the coming year?
"Well, I've seen my 5-year-old son play a better game of peewee football than what I saw here today," said fan Frank Smith. "If these so-called athletes can't do any better than him, I don't know how they are going to look out there playing whatever that hockey thing is they kept trying to tell us about. I think I'll skip that, but it sure was fun to be outside for a bit."