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Cold, sunshine welcome players to Wrigley

by Staff
CHICAGO -- Eye black and layers are the order of the day for the players reporting to Wrigley field Wednesday for the practice sessions in preparation for Thursday's Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic '09, just as's exclusive forecast from the Weather Channel predicted. 

The forecast said that Wednesday would arrive with strong winds and biting cold. And, that's exactly what we have at Wrigley. Despite a strong sun that has melted much of the trace element of snow received overnight, the temperatures refuse to climb out of the low 20s, which is about 10 degrees colder than normal for Chicago at this time of year.

But the cold doesn't seem to be bothering anybody. The Chicago Blackhawks arrived early for their 11 a.m. practice session, checking out their digs in the Chicago Cubs locker room.

Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin was so excited to see the playing surface that he wandered into the dugout in just long underwear, socks and shower shoes. Dustin Byfuglien was dressed a little more sensibly, adding a sweatshirt and sneakers to his ensemble as he walked by. He was also wearing some eye black under his eyes to help with the sun's glare off the ice surface.

According to today's forecast, a strong northwesterly wind, with gusts up to 25 mph, will drive the wind chill temperature into the single digits. The wind should die down as the day progresses, but the temperatures will not climb out of the low-20s

But according to the Weather Channel, things will warm up for the actual game, which is scheduled to start at noon local time (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio, XM).  

Early-arriving fans will feel bitter temperatures in the high teens early Thursday, but it is expected to  warm up quickly as the temperature climbs into the low 30s by the early afternoon. A strong wind -- blowing out of the south at 15 to 20 mph -- will bring in the cloud cover.

At faceoff, the Weather Channel forecasters predict the temperature to be 30 degrees with a southwesterly wind blowing at 15 to 25 mph, making a wind-chill adjusted temperature of 15 to 20 degrees.  

For those that are hoping for snow for the Winter Classic, all is not lost. The forecast suggests there could be some flurries in the third period. There is a better chance for snow later in the day, too.

Here is the Weather Channel's exclusive Wrigley Field forecast for the next two days:

Chicago Forecast – as of Tuesday at 2 p.m. EST
Winds will still be quite gusty as Chicagoans wake up in the morning with winds out of the northwest between 15 and 25 mph.  Temperatures during the morning commute will remain in the upper teens with wind chills in the low-to-mid single digits.  As the day progresses, winds will greatly diminish with sunny, blue skies prevailing as high pressure builds into the Midwest.  Unfortunately temperatures will not warm much; only into the low 20s.  High temperatures in Chicago for late December average in the low-to-mid 30s so this is well-below average.
Wednesday night: Temperatures will fall slightly during the overnight into the mid teens under mostly clear skies and a crescent moon.  Winds will remain nearly calm but begin to change direction from the northwest to the southwest.
Thursday: Temperatures will start out in the upper teens during the morning with calm winds and mostly clear skies. But as the day unfolds, clouds will increase and so will the winds. By the afternoon, winds will howl out of the south at 15 to 25 mph allowing daytime temperatures to rise into the mid 30s.  A passing snow shower can’t be ruled out just yet (especially towards the end of the game) but it will have little to no impact on the NHL Winter Classic.  After the game, snow showers may become more frequent.
Faceoff: Temperature near 30 degrees.  Southwest winds 15 to 25 mph.  Wind chills between 15 and 20 degrees.
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