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A Shark fans Winter Classic story
cont...

You couldn't wipe the smiles off of peoples faces. Everyone was having fun and the excitement just kept on building. At one moment I had a brief encounter with a Red Wings fan who made some off color comment about my jersey and my team and I ended up holding him in a headlock and knocking a few fake punches jokingly his way.

It was almost game time and it was time to go in. We filed in, along with several thousand other hockey fans, into the stadium one by one. Coming out of the section tunnel and stepping into the stands of Wrigley was an awesome moment. Seeing the rink in the field and looking at the 41,000+ people sitting and standing around you, outside & in the cold, for a hockey game, was just a great moment. All the focus and attention was on the rink and everyone's eyes were glued to the soon to be spot where all the action would be. You could feel the history making part of the experience in the air.

Walking to our seats, we felt the intensity of the spectacle continue to build. The crowd was letting out this constant, loud and simultaneous murmur. As if everyone was demanding that the show begin as soon as possible. Everyone's face had this expression of wild anticipation, not so much for the two teams they were about to see but mostly for what they had become a part of it at that moment, a hockey game that was about to be played outdoors, under these conditions. That's what I felt at least. No doubt that the loyal fans of the teams that were playing also had some form of revenge and a desire to win on their mind as well. But the main current of emotion was around the historical hockey gala we were all in.

We got to our seats which were in the lowest level, between home base and 1st, 7 rows up. The league then took us through several pre-game moments, each providing the crowd a reason to be very engaged in. The players came out of the dugouts and made their way to the ice with fire and sparks shooting up beside them. The anthems were sung. 'Oh Canada' received very strong vocal support from the crowd. The US anthem received massive support from the crowd. It was nice to see both anthems being treated with respect. At the end of the Star Spangled Banner we had two F-18's fly overhead of us.

Then we began the process of initiating the crowd coordinated "stunts", as they called it. 20 youngsters, holding yellow signs with black writing on them, stood out in the field and advised all of us to initiate stunt # 1. Each seat had a folded poster size piece of paper taped to it. We unfurled the paper and read the instructions which requested that for stunt # 1, we look through the small slit at the top of the paper and hold this particular side to our eyes. We looked at the 2 Large TV screens that were set up in the outfield and figured out that we were all spelling 'Happy New Year' with our cards.

A smile developed on everyone's faces. Then the 20 youngsters raised a second yellow sign and requested that everyone prepare for stunt # 2. This required that we turn our cards around and expose the other side of the piece of paper. As we looked to the TV screens we figured out that the crowd was spelling Blackhawks & Red Wings across the upper and lower level stands. One of the funniest parts of the day happened next when as a result of seeing what they were spelling, the Blackhawks fans became incensed and could not believe that they had actually just participated in something that assisted the world in seeing the name of one of its main hockey rivals, the Detroit Red Wings and the crowd immediately began throwing the paper all over the place. 20,000 poster size pieces of paper began to fill the air and everyone got a good laugh out of it. Being a Sharks fan and obviously no fan of the Red Wings myself, I happily participated.

Game time & the puck drops. All in all, for this type of event, our seats were not too bad. We were only a few hundred feet away from the rink, so technically we were in the section that was the closest to the ice. It was clear, very quickly, that the sight lines offered to most of the people in Wrigley were poor. Our low position eliminated the view of about 40% of the ice. From the top of the boards down, we obviously couldn't see anything going on in that space.

You could still get a good grasp of what was going on in the game but it was clear that few people would be following the action the way we were all used to, with regular hockey arenas. It was frankly difficult to make out the names of most of the players. The players numbers were used as identification tools. A lot of people adjusted to the poor visibility by choosing to stand rather than sit. It seemed like we were all standing for a good 40 minutes of the game. It didn't matter though. The game had started and history was being made before our eyes and being a part of this moment was all that mattered.

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