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At Wrigley Field: Blackhawks act like kids on ice

December 31, 2008 | 12:45 pm

The Chicago Blackhawks practice on the ice at Wrigley Field in preparation for Thursday's NHL Winter Classic.

CHICAGO -- The Blackhawks practiced first on the temporary rink at Wrigley Field, the site of Thursday's NHL Winter Classic, and they were prepared for the elements.

The coaches wore fuzzy hats with pompoms, some players wore neck-warmers, and quite a few players put on eye black to fight the glare of the sun. Some players players inscribed the area code of their hometown in white ink on the black background. Winger Adam Burish, for example, wore 608 for Madison, Wis.

Burish was like a kid on a playground, not minding if the ice turned mushy in spots as the sun shone.

"The ice even sounds different. They put it together in a week, so it's not going to be as good as we normally see," he said. "But who cares about what the ice is like? Who cares about what the weather is like? It's about this opportunity and the game and how much fun it's going to be. These are memories you'll have for a long time."

"I don't care if it's minus-10 or it's 60 degrees, it's going to be a blast."

Winger Kris Versteeg said he couldn't remember the last time he had skated amid the elements.

"It had to be a long time ago," he said. "It really takes you back to way back in your younger years when you were out there practicing outdoors in your buddy's backyard.

"It's a lot different now because you've got to play an organized game, and it should be a lot of fun."

Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville made a good point when he was asked if he would have to change his strategy if the ice is less than perfect. It's far from perfect indoors in a lot of NHL arenas too, and players long ago learned to adjust to soft spots and snow buildups.

"Late in periods in any building, you've got to be smart where you put the puck," he said.

He also said 2007-08 rookie of the year Patrick Kane, who was hit hard twice Tuesday night in the Blackhawks' 4-0 loss to the Red Wings in Detroit, will play Thursday.

More later, after the Red Wings hit the ice.

-- Helene Elliott

Photo: The Chicago Blackhawks practice on the ice at Wrigley Field in preparation for Thursday's NHL Winter Classic. Credit: M. Spencer Green / Associated Press