CHICAGO -- Detroit Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson was right at home Thursday afternoon.
The Chicago native couldn't believe his eyes when he arrived at Wrigley Field for the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and saw how one of baseball's most historic ballparks had been transformed into a winter wonderland.
"I didn't know how it was going to look when I got here, but it's amazing," said Granderson, who watched the Detroit Red Wings' 6-4 win from a luxury suite. "It's great to have the Blackhawks and the Red Wings at Wrigley Field. I'm enjoying my time here."
Among the other celebrities on hand were actors Vince Vaughn ("Wedding Crashers," "The Breakup"), William Petersen ("CSI"), Jeffrey Donovan ("Burn Notice") and George Stults ("7th Heaven"); actress Joan Cusack ("Working Girl," "Sixteen Candles"); Smashing Pumpkins lead singer Billy Corgan; "Wheel of Fortune" host Pat Sajak and CBS Sports football analyst and former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason.
Thursday's game between the Central Division rivals was the second Granderson has seen in person. He hopes to attend more in the future.
"I haven't had the chance to make it to as many as I want to," Granderson said. "This is my second NHL game. I went to a game in Tampa, and I've been to a couple of OHL (Ontario Hockey League) games. I enjoy the sport. This is a great opportunity to see another great game."
Perhaps Granderson will get to see another great game should the Red Wings ever host a game at Comerica Park. Granderson, though, believes Wrigley was the perfect fit for such an event.
"It's so big, the rink would look so small," Granderson said. "Wrigley Field works good because it's not a big stadium. It works out well, especially with the rooftop seats. The seating is good. It looks like a lot of the fans are definitely enjoying it. It works out very good here."
Actor Thorsten Kaye agreed. The die-hard Red Wings' fan had prime seats in Section 415, right near center ice.
"This is very special," Kaye told NHL.com. "I've got to tell you, when I wanted to get tickets I wanted to get close to the ice. But I was told I shouldn't do that -- you want to be up high to see this thing."
Kaye was able to see everything -- including the four minor penalties Detroit took in the opening period. Two of Chicago's three first-period goals came via the power play.
"We've got to stay out of the penalty box. This is not a circus. It's a very important game for us."
Nonetheless, the pre-game festivities sent chills down the spines of the 40,818 in attendance. Kaye was mesmerized by the Wrigley atmosphere.
"That was really cool," Kaye said of the pre-game ceremony. "I'm not a baseball guy, so Wrigley doesn't mean the same to me. But what a setup! When you look out and see people's homes and they're up on the rooftop, this is pretty cool. I saw the two planes coming (during the national anthem), which was great."
John Hughes, the Hollywood writer and director who lives in the Chicago area, was in Wrigley's upper deck behind the goal nearest the left-field foul pole.
"I grew up in the Detroit area, so I’m sort of happy right now," Hughes said at the end of the second period with the Red Wings up 4-3. "Gordie Howe was my hero growing up. We listened to games on the radio."
Hughes authored the smash-hit screenplay "Home Alone" and then went on to direct blockbusters such as "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Sixteen Candles" and "Pretty in Pink." After "Ferris Bueller" — "I used the number 9," said Hughes -- Howe sent the director an autographed jersey.
"That was a big thrill," said Hughes, who nonetheless was a Blackhawks season ticket holder for years.
"We're going to re-up now," Hughes said. "It's amazing what Rocky Wirtz and his organization has done for the team. There is just so much affection for the Hawks that was pent up. I think that's why there was anger about the Hawks [dry stretch]. The team is beloved."
Author: Brian Compton | NHL.com Staff Writer