CHICAGO – There have been news conferences like this before for events this Winter which the Blackhawks have become accustomed to participating in the past decade.
It started with a contest on the North Side of Chicago, then went to the Lakefront, then road trips to Washington D.C., Minnesota, and St. Louis. All of them involved the Blackhawks taking their indoor game to the outside, back to the roots of the sport and, for most players, their start as a child.
Another one of these awaits the Blackhawks to start 2019, this time at a different venue in a different city in a different state. For the second time the team heads into a College Football stadium for a game, but all respect to Minnesota’s relatively new TCF Bank Stadium, this contest will feature a bit more history.
“It’s cool. It really is a new atmosphere,” said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews of playing in Notre Dame Stadium for the 2019 Winter Classic on New Year’s Day against the Bruins. “You want to take a look around and soak it in a little bit before you get to focused on the actual game itself.”
Indeed “The House That Rockne Built” will something unique for the Blackhawks in their series out outdoor games, which was discussed at a news conference for the event on Thursday in Chicago.
With a capacity of 80,795, it’s the biggest of the venues they’ve played in during an NHL outdoor game, toping the 61,500 Soldier Field where they played the Penguins at in March of 2014. Built in 1930, the stadium is home to the iconic Notre Dame football program and is one of the more revered College Football stadiums in the country.
Toews believes the venue could help to get more eyes on the sport of hockey, continuing the initial hope of the NHL when they started the outdoor games a decade ago.
“I think there are lots of College Football fans around the Midwest and probably around the country that aren’t from Chicago that will tune in maybe for that reason and they’ll want to see what it’s all about,” said Toews. “It think both teams will put on a good show and make it a memorable experience for everybody.”
Despite the nostalgia, the goal for the Blackhawks will be to score a victory against their Original Six rival. Not since that 2014 game with the Penguins have the Blackhawks won an outdoor game, losing the 2015 Winter Classic to the Capitals, 2016 Stadium Series contest to the Wild, and the 2017 Winter Classic to the Blues.
“It’s something that our fans base – both fan bases – really get excited about and there’s bragging rights,” said Toews. “You want your fans to show up, to support, hype up the whole experience and you want to give them a win and give them something to be happy about.”
In a place that’s sure to bring a few curious eyes to the Blackhawks and Bruins on New Year’s Day.