Danni Wysocki, originally from Northville, Mich., but now living in Chicago, held up her “Our Mayor Can Beat Up Your Governor – Go Wings!” sign every chance she could.
Even she was split on the match-up — her boyfriend, Steve Butcha, proudly wore his Blackhawks jersey.
“It’s not the long distance that’s tough, it’s him being a Hawks’ fan,” Wysocki chuckled.
Both were keeping warm with layers of clothing, but Buctha had an extra weapon to battle the frigid temperature.
“Bud Light is layer No. 7 today,” Butcha said.
Wysocki had been saving up for tickets since the summer, and finally forked over $200 a piece for seats in the 200 Level. But even after the second period, when the Wings held just a one-goal margin it was already worth the hefty amount.
“I live and die with the Red Wings,” Wysocki said.
Some Wings’ fans had a better price — free.
Erik Condra, senior captain of the University of Notre Dame ice hockey team, was sitting with his teammates and the three other teams in the Shillelagh college tournament, which starts Friday in the Chicago suburbs.
“Extra bonus for coming to the tournament, I guess,” Condra said. His coach got seats for them about 30 rows off the ice.
“We’ve got probably five guys from Chicago and five guys from Detroit here, so it’s a battle on our team, too,” said Condra, who grew up a Wings’ fan in suburban Detroit and attended Novi Detroit Catholic Central High.
Willard Shell has had Wings’ season tickets since 1966, and brought his daughter, Lauren, who now lives in Chicago, to the game at $325 per ticket.
“It’s been an amazing experience because I’m here with my dad,” Lauren said. “I grew up going to the Wings’ games — every single Wings’ game throughout the season with my dad.”
Their day started long before the 12:30 p.m. CT puck drop — tailgating at 9 a.m. in Lincoln Park, followed by a stop at a Wrigleyville bar with friends.
“You’ve got a 56-year-old and a bunch of 25-year-olds — it’s kind of a crazy mix,” Lauren said.
|Despite hearing not-so-friendly cheers early on, these two Red Wings' fans were all smiles as their team won the second annual Winter Classic. (Photo by Lindsey Ungar) |
Her mom was texting her throughout the game from back in Michigan.
“I’ve gotten probably 20 text messages since I’ve been here," Lauren said. “And every time I go to check one my dad says, “you’re at a hockey game that costs more to get in to than everything I’ve ever been to, do not check your text messages.”
The Shells were sitting in Section 422, which was filled with Red Wings’ season-ticket holders. Ann Arbor’s Michael Butler, whose father has been a season-ticket holder for almost 20 years, was one of the few fans on his feet with the Wings up 6-3 in the third period.
“It was pretty viscous earlier, I’m not gonna lie,” Butler said. “The whole “Detroit sucks” chant was getting pretty rough. Right now, they’re all being quiet; everyone’s kind of pouty.”
At that moment, the Hawks’ fans sitting in front of him started to heckle him, and Butler stared at the scoreboard.
“We better put in double-digits — why not?” Butler said.
“This is the best Wings’ game I’ve ever been to for sure. The fact that it’s outside like this — I love it. I really hope we do it again. The fact that I’m in Chicago, came all the way out here, and it’s New Year’s Day — it’s great. Everything’s awesome.”
Standing near the top of the section was Bill Deckert, dressed nondescriptly in a thick winter jacket and wool knit hat, with no Red Wings or Hawks gear to show.
But he might have been one of the most appreciative fans there.
Deckert, who played for the Junior Red Wings and now referees high school games, brought his wife and 13-year-old daughter to Chicago for New Year’s.
They’re not hockey fans. So he came alone, buying a single seat in the bleachers to come watch the Wings play.
“It reminds me of when I was a kid, playing outside,” Declert said. “It’s all there was available to us back then. This is kind of just like that with the shovels shoving off the snow, and the rink, seeing the players dress and wear their little knit caps before game. It’s just like we used to do when we were kids.”
This was the first Christmas his daughter no longer believed in Santa Claus, and he said it put a damper on the holiday. But he glowed on New Year’s Day, while his family enjoyed Chicago he could watch the Red Wings defeat the Blackhawks outside.
“I have to go to the ice rink to get my masculinity back once in a while,” he said.