The countdown is hours now. NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins addressed the media this afternoon at Wrigley Field about the opportunity for this year's Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic to "bring hockey fans together" for a Jan. 1 tune-in (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio, XM Radio).
"This game can show all sports fans what makes hockey so special," said Collins, who mentioned that one way to gauge interest in this year's Winter Classic is that more than 240,000 fans registered for a chance to acquire tickets for Thursday's matchup between the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings and the hottest team in the NHL, the hometown Chicago Blackhawks.
Collins allowed that "going forward we have number of options" about where the NHL Winter Classic 2010 might be played. He mentioned "NFL, college football and MLB" stadiums as possible locations, plus "other iconic structures."
With the refrigeration system (all housed in a 53-foot trailer that can wheel anywhere in North America) the NHL has "now committed to and owns," said Collins, there is great flexibility for where next year's Jan. 1 game will be played -- and what looks to become a New Year's Day tradition for years ahead.
"We are feeling how special this game can be," said Collins.