Report: NHL to announce Blackhawks-Red Wings game at Wrigley

Updated: July 8, 2008, 9:33 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Showcasing a game in an outdoor arena on New Year's Day worked so well the first time, it appears the NHL is going to go for it again.

An announcement is expected later this month for the 2009 Winter Classic, the second one pitting the Chicago Blackhawks and the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings at fabled Wrigley Field, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on its Web site.

An announcement is expected next week before the "Blackhawks Convention" at the Chicago Hilton. According to the Star Tribune's report, the game was approved last week when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman met with the Blackhawks, Cubs and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

Last New Year's Day, more people tuned in to see the NHL play outdoors than any other regular-season game in more than a decade.

The Penguins-Sabres game in snowy Buffalo -- the first regular-season outdoor NHL game in the United States -- drew a 2.6 overnight rating and a 5 share on NBC. Each ratings point represents about 735,000 households; the rating is the percentage watching a telecast among homes with televisions, and the share is the percentage tuned into a broadcast among those households with televisions on at the time. Overnight ratings measure the 55 largest TV markets in the United States.

The 2.6/5 were the best numbers since a six-game regional telecast on Fox drew a 3.0 overnight rating and a 7 share on Feb. 3, 1996.

Pittsburgh won 2-1 in a shootout on a Sidney Crosby score before a crowd of more than 71,000 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The Winter Classic ratings also surpassed Wayne Gretzky's final game, which was broadcast on Fox on April 18, 1999, and drew a 2.5/6.

The first outdoor NHL game, billed as the Heritage Classic, was played Nov. 22, 2003 in Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta. The Montreal Canadiens beat the Oilers 4-3.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.