Hockey Fans have Reason to Smile this New Year
While many people are set up for Bowl Games galore today fans of the frozen pond will be getting getting ready for tomorrow's New Year's Day Winter Classic between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field.
CHICAGO - There are signs all around Wrigley Field that suggest the NHL is about to hit a home run with the Winter Classic.
You have people lining up at a makeshift stand in front of the stadium to purchase official merchandise two days before puck drop. You have ice guru Dan Craig predicting a fast game on a superior surface to the one he created in Buffalo last year. You have none other than Blackhawks legend Stan Mikita talking about being unable to deliver on several ticket requests.
I'm personally waiting for my all-time best named "Chick-fil-A Bowl" from Atlanta, though Brut's co-naming right to the Sun Bowl is pretty good.
If hockey fans want to whet there chops they may want want to tune in to the last preliminary round game at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Canada and the US will Square off in the marquis matchup of the preliminary round. The winner gets a bye into the semis, the loser will cross-over and meet Slovakia (who defeated Finland in a shootout earlier today) for a chance at the semis. The other top match up pits the Swedes against the Russias, also worth watching if you can get the feed.
For this generation of Canadian players, the rivalry with the U.S. is as heated - if not more - than the country's established rivalry with Russia, although the players are aware their country has a long history with the latter that goes back to the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union.
While Canada has played Russia in the world junior final five of the last seven years, Canada's shootout win over the U.S. in the 2007 semifinal and the devastating collapse against the Americans in the 2004 final are vivid memories in these Canadian players' minds.
''The U.S., right across the board is always going to be a big rivalry,'' said the 17-year-old Ellis. ''Their program has picked up a lot in the last few years and they've been playing really well the last few tournaments.
''They always seem to be matched up against us in semis and finals and all that kind of stuff. That rivalry just kind of intensifies each year.''