| A Shark fans Winter Classic
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.
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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