December 31, 2008
Leading up to the 2009 Winter Classic, the NHL has been very good about playing up the distinctive aspects of Wrigley Field in Chicago in its marketing. As we discovered today while the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings took the ice for practice, that includes some representation of the distinctive ivy on the outfield walls.
The NHL told us today that the giant "faux-ivy" cloth banner you see above is "a few feet in front of the actual wall" where the ivy grows. If it works on television, it's a pretty clever attempt at recreating the traditional look of Wrigley Field while offering sponsors some extra signage for the high-profile game. If it doesn't work, then it's going to look like a rejected set prop from a high-school production of "Winter Classic Musical!" Let's all hope it's the former.
Meanwhile, a bummer for those of us who enjoy the way Doc Emrick brings hockey to life behind the play-by-play microphone. From NBC:
Hall of Fame broadcaster "Doc" Emrick will be unable to call tomorrow's NHL Winter Classic due to laryngitis. Dave Strader, who is the play-by-play voice of the Phoenix Coyotes and has also worked for NBC Sports, will fill in for Emrick.
"Last year's game was a lifetime memory and I couldn't wait to call this year's game at Wrigely," (sic) said Emrick. "I'm extremely disappointed but I know Dave will do a wonderful job."
Steve Lepore of Puck the Media knows his Emrick, and writes: "It's a shame for hockey fans everywhere, but at the same time, we know that Dave Strader is as good a hockey announcer not named Mike Emrick that you'll find to call the game."
Finally, we want to know what your expectations are for the Wrigley Field Winter Classic ratings in the U.S.
Last year's overnights were a 2.6 overnight rating and a 5 share on NBC with an estimated audience of 3.7 million viewers. Can this year's edition beat those numbers, or will the novelty of the Pittsburgh Penguins/Buffalo Sabres game be the high-water mark for the outdoor games?