January 1, 2009. The up-and-coming Chicago Blackhawks faced off against their longtime nemesis the Detroit Red Wings at a frigid Wrigley Field. Despite the 6-4 Blackhawks loss, the young exciting team was put back on the map after years of irrelevancy.
That was 14 years ago now. Nobody from that Blackhawks team remains and the Chicago Cubs franchise, including Wrigley Field, has gone through significant changes. When that Winter Classic game was played, the Chicago Tribune still owned the Cubs, and the park itself was pretty dated and falling apart. The charm of Wrigley obviously drew people to the game, as it has done for decades, but let's face it the state of the park is much better now.
This begs the question of whether Wrigley Field should host another Winter Classic soon. The NHL has hosted games at numerous outdoor venues over the past decade. They have succeeded at spreading out where they play outdoor games over the years. With that said, seeing an outdoor Blackhawks game at Wrigley Field again would be an even better experience now for a number of reasons.
In 2009 there were no video boards, special club areas, Gallagher Way, or Hotel Zachary. Concourses and bathrooms are now much improved, as are the new clubhouses and training facilities for the athletes. There will be no need to set up temporary screens in the outfield or scoreboards in the bleachers. Think of how Gallagher Way can be utilized before, during, and after the game with the space and shops to get the cool merchandise. Not to mention areas they can have for cold spectators to relax and warm up with heaters and fireplaces like at their Winter fests. They could move around while still seeing the action or go between periods.
Of course, there is the quality of the hockey team itself to keep in mind. The Blackhawks are currently in a complete rebuild, and it would likely not make sense to put them in a Winter Classic game now. However, looming with the first overall pick, which the Blackhawks have, is generational prospect Connor Bedard. With him as the building block, along with other young intriguing prospects, the team could be worth watching again on the horizon. Imagine Bedard putting on a show in front of 40K fans going nuts at Wrigley. The NHL honestly does do a much better job at marketing their superstars than MLB, and this would be a way to do it.
Is this at all a possibility? It's kind of hard to say. Since renovating the park, the Cubs are still looking to land their first MLB All Star Game since 1990. It is worth noting that Fenway Park has hosted multiple Winter Classic games, one in 2010 and the other this past season. So a repeat has shown to not be impossible. Whether it happens or not, it is cool to think about.