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Hockey fans soak in 'Classic' atmosphere

by Lindsey Ungar / Detroit Red Wings
CHICAGO — The best Christmas ever?

That’s what Jesse and Jake Trawinski had when Santa left them tickets for today’s Winter Classic at Wrigley Field.

“We got ‘em in our stockings,” Jake said. “We got (Green Bay) Packers’ tickets too, so we get to freeze our butts twice.”

They drove in with their mother, Jen Trawinski, from Appleton, Wis., who came prepared lugging a shopping bag full of blankets for the bleachers, extra mittens and hats, as well as snow pants. Jen lived in Detroit for 22 years, and was successful in keeping the Red Wings tradition in the family.

“I was born surrounded by Red Wings stuff,” said Jake, sporting a black Wings practice jersey and knit hat. “It sort of just caught on after a while.”

Over two hours before game time, Red Wings’ fans were already crowding the sidewalks near Addison and Clark streets. Matt Janisse and his friends left from Windsor, Ontario at 4:30 a.m., and then walked a mile from his hotel to Wrigley. All in sub-zero temperatures.

“We’re pumped up; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Janisse said. “We didn’t even think we’d be coming, but it all came together and here we are.”

Nick and Nina Hall hold up their homemade sign outside of Wrigley Field before the start of the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2009. (Photo by Lindsey Ungar)
Nick and Nina Hall clutched a sign reading, “Let’s go Wings, Show ‘em FIRE ON ICE.” Nick works for Chevrolet, and he and his wife were lucky enough to drive Mikael Samuelsson in the Stanley Cup parade down Woodward Avenue last June.

 But will Thursday’s game measure up to that?

“It’s close,” Nina said.

Even Blackhawks’ fans were getting in the Red Wings spirit. John Roth from Woodstock, Ill., paints vintage goalie masks as a hobby. But two of his friends were dressed in Red Wings jerseys — even though they’re all Blackhawks’ season-ticket holders.

“They lost the bet,” Roth chuckled. “They had to wear the Red Wings.”

In Spectator Plaza – just outside of Wrigley Field – fans were grooving to the live band playing “Save a Blackhawk, Ride a Red Wing” — a parody of Big & Rich’s country hit.

Others were getting photos snapped with Red Wings and Blackhawks characters outfitted on stilts, next to enormous blown-up jerseys, or poking their head through a hole to look like they’re actually playing the game. No frowns were found, and fans decked in everything from a Nashville Predators jersey to a San Jose Sharks scarf were taking in the atmosphere.
Amy Kegler, who went to the inaugural Winter Classic, drove eight hours from Buffalo to experience outdoor hockey again.

Last year, Kegler got to Ralph Wilson Stadium at 2 a.m. in the morning to begin tailgating for the game, sleeping in the car to stake out a good parking lot spot.

This year, she’s here for one reason.

“Just watching (former Sabre) Brian Campbell play,” Kegler said. “I want him back!”

Will this year’s version top the snowy shootout from last season?

“As of right now, no,” Kegler said, still an hour and a half before the game.

But she left some room open to change her mind.

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