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A Shark fans Winter Classic story
The Windy City low down
1/5/09 - By David M

I live in San Jose California and was lucky enough to be able to travel to Chicago Illinois for the NHL's Winter Classic outdoor hockey game. What brought me there was me winning the Sharks Winter Classic Sweepstakes. A contest they had that I entered in and won. I received Southwest Airline gift cards worth $500. Two free nights at a Chicago hotel & two tickets to the Winter Classic hockey game. When the Sharks told me that I won and they asked me if I wanted to go, there was no question whatsoever, the answer was a big "Yes!".

I arrived into Chicago on Dec. 31st. It was an absolutely freezing cold 25 degrees in the City that day and the windy aspect of this town made it feel like -10. I come from Canada but having lived in California for the past 10 years I clearly forgot some of the basic elements in how cold this world can get. A quick 4 block stroll through downtown Chicago left me feeling like my nose was about to fall off. It was a good reminder of the weather I was going to have at the hockey game tomorrow.

As I said though, I am from Canada and I did in fact come prepared for the big game. A visit to the North Face shop in Palo Alto allowed me to stock up really well on all the different types of clothing I would need for the big game and the 4+ hours I would be spending outside in the cold weather.

I brought my best friend Dylan from Toronto with me to the game. I knew he would be able to appreciate the celebration of hockey that we were about to see. We stayed at the Inter Continental Hotel in downtown Chicago. The same hotel that the National Hockey League uses for all of its staff. Various league executives were often seen at the hotel.

The entire production staff that was making the whole event happen (behind the scenes) had blocked off a slew of conference rooms which were used as their headquarters for the event. I cant tell you enough how nice it was to enter a hotel and see banners, posters, even stenciled window graphics all highlighting the Winter Classic. You felt surrounded by hockey and that's a great feeling to have.

The night of the 31st began with a lengthy visit to the hotel lounge on the 1st floor, where we, as well as all the league executives and various other hockey fans, gathered in front of the Plamsa TVs to watch the much anticipated World Junior Hockey Championship hockey game between Team Canada and Team USA. It was a great game that ended with Team Canada walking away with a 7-4 win. From there we got dressed up and went to a local Restaurant/Club and rang in the New Year nice and proper. We got to bed around 4am.

You wake up in the morning and before your eyes even focus and open up, you got that nice feeling of fantastic anticipation flowing through you and it all surrounds the sport you love - Hockey. Your about to see and be a part of something special and you cant help but smile.

We grabbed a taxi at the hotel and made our way towards Wrigley Field. We were five blocks from the stadium when the traffic started backing up and since we were moving slower than molasses we decided to get out and walk the rest of the way. Good idea since we got to savor the feeling of walking up to one of America's most well-known sports stadiums hosting this special hockey day.

We met a bunch of characters as we approached Wrigley. The neighborhood surrounding the stadium is called Wrigleyville and is made up of several hundred bars and various entertainment type establishments. The area around the stadium has no open land, no large parking areas. Surrounding the stadium are low-rise buildings, not more than 3 stories tall, packed tightly together, one against another.

Chicago and Detroit fans were out in full force. This was all still the pre-game action so people were generally still friendly to one another. The rivalry was taking a back seat to the unique event everybody knew they would soon be a part of. I got many a stare and many a friendly comment to my San Jose Sharks jersey & toque that I was sporting. Some people even decided to pose with me in some pictures and I obliged. Met a whole bunch of hockey fans who were all just incredibly excited about the event that was to come.

More: Page 2 | Page 3 | Photos

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