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updated: 9/19/2013 7:36 PM

Hawks looking forward to Soldier Field game

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  • NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman discusses the Stadium Series hockey game between the Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins to be held in March at Soldier Field in Chicago.

      NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman discusses the Stadium Series hockey game between the Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins to be held in March at Soldier Field in Chicago.
    Associated Press

  • Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith shoots a puck from the 40-yard line, 150 feet from the goal post, at Soldier Field as part of a promotion for the Stadium Series hockey game between the Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins next March.

      Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith shoots a puck from the 40-yard line, 150 feet from the goal post, at Soldier Field as part of a promotion for the Stadium Series hockey game between the Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins next March.
    Associated Press

  • Brent Seabrook of the Blackhawks shoots a puck from the 40-yard line at Soldier Field as part of a promotion for the Stadium Series hockey game between the Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Pengiuns next March. It will be one of six NHL outdoor games in the series.

      Brent Seabrook of the Blackhawks shoots a puck from the 40-yard line at Soldier Field as part of a promotion for the Stadium Series hockey game between the Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Pengiuns next March. It will be one of six NHL outdoor games in the series.
    Associated Press

  • NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman believes the NHL will have no trouble handling six outdoor games in stadiums this season, saying it's what the fans want.

      NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman believes the NHL will have no trouble handling six outdoor games in stadiums this season, saying it's what the fans want.
    Associated Press

 
 

Duncan Keith keeps a scrapbook of his career and always stops on Jan. 1, 2009 -- the day the Blackhawks played the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field.

"I've looked back at that scrapbook over the years and always take a few extra seconds to look at the Wrigley Field game," Keith said. "It's one game, but was kind of a party."

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Now Keith and his Hawks teammates will get to do it again on Saturday night, March 1, when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins outdoors at Soldier Field.

"Wrigley Field was great and special because everyone knows the history of Wrigley Field, but being able to play a hockey game where the Bears play in a stadium this big and this nice is going to be a great feeling," Keith said Thursday at a news conference held on the Soldier Field turf.

"As players we're all looking forward to this game," Keith said. "We don't want to get ahead of ourselves in any way, but it's hard not to look at a game like this and how cool it's going to be."

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Hawks chairman Rocky Wirtz were on hand to formally announce the game, which will be one of six outdoor games played in the Coors Light Stadium Series.

There will be two games played at Yankee Stadium featuring the Rangers against the Islanders and the Devils, one at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles between the Kings and Ducks, and a fifth at B.C. Place in Vancouver between the Canucks and Senators.

The Winter Classic will remain on Jan. 1 and feature Detroit and Toronto at the University of Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

Bettman doesn't think six outdoor games are too many.

"Let's keep in mind we play 1,230 regular season games and we're doing six," Bettman said. "I'll tell you, for the teams involved, the fans can't get enough of this. And we do this for our fans. My special events staff may say this is a lot of games, but we think we can manage this well and put on all six of the games well."

Last year at this time Bettman was canceling preseason games because of the lockout. It's safe to say the NHL has made a full recovery from that dark time.

"We obviously never like to go through what we went through, but the long-term health of the game requires you make difficult decisions to make sure you have the right foundation," Bettman said.

"The league came back extraordinarily strong last year. We played to over 97 percent capacity for attendance in the regular season and 100 percent in the playoffs. TV ratings were through the roof. We do have incredible fans. It's not something we take for granted. I've always believed in the game and I've always believed in the fans and when you do the right things, even if there's short-term pain involved, you get to the right place."

Hawks president and CEO John McDonough and Wirtz basically lobbied Bettman for another outdoor game since playing at Wrigley Field.

"Well, you've got to ask," McDonough said. "During conversations we had with (Bettman), we tried to skillfully weave in how unique this city is."

All that's left is for the Hawks to host the All-Star Game and entry draft.

"I would be very, very happy if we kept hosting the Stanley Cup Finals," McDonough said. "That would be the ultimate. Those others will come in due time. We'll just have to keep earning these events and keep reminding Commissioner Bettman that this is a great destination."

Needless to say, Bettman has gotten the point.

"To see what has happened to this franchise the last half a dozen years is a good story and also a cautionary tale for places that just think you can write off the game because the team isn't doing well," Bettman said. "We always knew Chicago was a great hockey town. There was never any doubt about that."

• Follow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.

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