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Chicago intends to increase public rinks

Monday, 12.22.2008 / 7:37 PM / Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic 2009

By Stuart Shea - Special to NHL.com

CHICAGO -- Mayor Richard J. Daley announced at a press conference celebrating the Jan. 1, 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Wrigley Field Monday that he intends to have more indoor hockey rinks built in the city of Chicago.

“We’re looking in the future to build more hockey rinks in Chicago indoors,” Daley said. “We know we have McFetridge (on the city’s near Northwest side), and a number of private (rinks), but that’s one thing we have to expand: hockey rinks in Chicago.

“Kids want to play the sport, and we can do a couple of them inside, and that’s something we want to do in the next few years —to have rinks you can rent 24/7.”

Speaking of the Winter Classic, Daley noted, “I hope that this event is not only a terrific competition, but also inspires more young people to get involved in hockey, a sport where you learn teamwork.”

Chicago Blackhawks Senior Vice President of Business Operations Jay Blunk is part of a team that has begun discussions with the Mayor’s team on this youth-oriented initiative. He comes at the issue from a personal perspective.

“My kids play hockey,” Blunk said. “When I got here (to the Blackhawks) one of the first things I realized is that we need a youth hockey initiative … we recognized the great potential of hockey in this massively populated area, the city of Chicago. This is a hockey town, and we have to make the game available to the kids. It’s the hot new thing.

“What the mayor was talking about was true, and we’ve recognized the same thing, so we’re in preliminary discussions, just on general philosophies and how we can contribute. If we are going to continue growing this game, we have a window of opportunity right now that is wide open.

“One way to keep perpetuating that is to get kids playing. Because they’re playing in the suburbs right now. Youth hockey is as strong as ever in the Chicago area. But how do we get kids in the city playing? A lot of kids in their kids identify with the players on our team, because some of the players are in their teens themselves, like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. These kids have really attached themselves to this Hawks team.

“This brand of hockey is not necessarily the brand your dad rooted for; with the speed, it’s a different game. And the challenge to us now is to perpetuate this and take it further than it already is.”