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"There's just that love affair," Olczyk said.

Olczyk grew up only 20 or so miles outside of the Windy City. Wrigley Field was his ballpark, his summer home. The Cubs were - and still are - his team. He is a diehard fan. He's even sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" there twice.

But when Olczyk stands on the broadcaster's podium Jan. 1 to call the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and hometown Blackhawks, it'll be like he's standing in a heavenly spot. The cold won't matter.

Wrigley Field is usually reserved for Olczyk's baseball heroes, but that blustery New Year's Day afternoon, "the Friendly Confines" will be reserved for his sport and team he cares for the most.

"It's the place to be," Olczyk said of Wrigley Field on New Year's Day. "You know baseball, that town and Wrigley Field are … it's seamless. I'm going to be so envious and jealous (that I can't play)."

Olczyk retired eight years ago, but he would take off his broadcaster's headset to wear the Hawks' sweater again just to take one shift against the Red Wings on Jan. 1.

Talk about a dream coming true: Olczyk was never a good enough baseball player to make it to Wrigley Field, but if he were only a few years younger he would have been a good enough hockey player to make it there.

That would have been unbelievable, and something Olczyk never could have imagined, no matter how far in the distance he let his mind wander.

"No, I never envisioned (a hockey game at Wrigley) or visualized what that would be like," Olczyk said. "Once we got the chance to do the game in Buffalo (last season), I guess I did at some point say, 'Geez, we've had it in a football venue and probably the next move would be to try to get it in a Major League Baseball stadium.' That was kind of the first time I really ever thought about and then I thought about Wrigley, how quaint it is and the rooftops. Sure enough it ended up happening."

It's perfect timing, too.

Perhaps no team in the NHL right now has captured the imagination of its growing fan base the way the Blackhawks have over the past season-plus. Olczyk has been documenting it all as the team's lead TV analyst on Comcast SportsNet and WGN.

"The roar is back in Chicago and the expectations are really high. People have come back," Olczyk said. "To be able to have this game with the defending Stanley Cup champions (against) a team that you saw signs of coming around last year, it's just natural. To be able to have that game on New Year's Day on NBC is something special."

Olczyk said he can't imagine a tougher ticket for any regular season sporting event in the history of Chicago sports than the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
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