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updated: 3/2/2014 7:18 PM

Hawks' Toews: We had a blast out there

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  • Jonathan Toews celebrates after Patrick Sharp scores in the first period Saturday' in the Hawks' 5-1 victory over the Penguins in the NHL Stadium Series game at Soldier Field.

      Jonathan Toews celebrates after Patrick Sharp scores in the first period Saturday' in the Hawks' 5-1 victory over the Penguins in the NHL Stadium Series game at Soldier Field.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 

All that's left for the Blackhawks to do now is to play outdoors at U.S. Cellular Field.

And don't think Hawks president and CEO John McDonough wasn't trying to plant that seed with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman over the weekend.

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Saturday's Stadium Series game at Soldier Field was a rousing success on every level, starting with the fact that the Hawks won 5-1 behind 2 goals and an assist from Jonathan Toews.

Yes it snowed a lot, making for some comical moments, but that only added to the atmosphere and made it even more special for the players and crowd of 62,921.

It still wasn't Wrigley Field for the 2009 Winter Classic in terms of aesthetics, but it was equally as entertaining.

The game drew monster ratings on NBC as the most watched non-Winter Classic regular-season game in history.

The game registered a 2.1 overnight rating, making it the highest overnight ever on NBC for a non-Winter Classic NHL regular-season game, according to metered market data from The Nielsen Company.

It drew a 14.9 rating in Chicago, making it the highest-rated regular-season Hawks game ever on NBC in the Chicago market, even topping the 2009 NHL Winter Classic (11.8).

"What an environment," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "What a feeling; crowds, snow, great opponent, pace of the game.

"I think everybody probably went back to when they were kids. You get to play outside, you get to play whether it's pick-up, shinny or a real game. I don't think the stage could have been any better. I think how hard it was snowing right off the bat was like, wow, these are pretty amazing conditions. I think everyone felt like they were outside playing in the snow."

Cameras caught Toews smiling during the national anthem.

"Just excited," Toews said. "We had a blast out there. I think we honestly did feel like we were playing shinny hockey in the backyard."

Patrick Sharp, who opened the scoring with a goal in the first period, felt it got easier to play as the game went on in difficult conditions.

"The first period was pretty tough," Sharp said. "It was tough to see and tough to handle the puck. At the start of the second period it was fine out there.

"It felt like an outdoor game. There was no real system or structure to our game. We were hoisting the puck around and slapping it around and having fun doing it."

A week ago, Toews, Sharp and Duncan Keith were winning a gold medal for Team Canada in Sochi. Now they have won an outdoor game.

"It's been really cool, just thinking about the different situations we've been in over the past few years," Toews said. "There's always something going on. I think as a player it was fun to be part of this and playing at Soldier Field. We've played at a couple different venues in Chicago now and it's pretty amazing to think.

"It's so great for the fans. As a team we're super happy we were able to find a way to win, but it was an exciting game for the fans, just like the weather. It was a great night for Chicago hockey fans."

And not such a great night for the Penguins, although Pens coach Dan Bylsma said there was a lot he'll remember.

"You like the scene," Bylsma said. "You like the outdoors. I said (Friday) it was a great day getting out in the elements and skating outdoors and playing outdoors. So there are some pictures and moments in this game that certainly were excellent. You know, the outcome and how we played, we're going to have to erase that as part of that snapshot that I'll have."

Bettman issued a statement after the game thanking everyone involved in what he called a successful night in tough conditions.

"The skill and perseverance of our players, combined with the enthusiasm and energy of the greatest fans in sports, created a memorable culmination for the 2014 Coors Light Stadium Series," Bettman said. "We thank the city of Chicago and Soldier Field for the rousing welcome; we thank the Blackhawks -- in particular, Rocky Wirtz and John McDonough -- for hosting and the Penguins; and we celebrate the fact that more than 60,000 people were able to have so much fun at a hockey game on such a cold and snowy night."

•Follow Tim's Blackhawks and hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone.

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