Mother Nature obliged by putting forth her finest weather conditions:
Translation: spending the evening sitting in the uncovered upper deck of an outdoor football stadium in frigid temperatures, icy winds, and blizzard conditions. Sounds like a blast, doesn't it?
Given this prognosis, I did the best that I could to prepare. Here is what I wore:
- 3 pairs of socks (compression socks, then two other pairs of socks on top) plus my winter boots
- Running tights underneath a pair of jeans
- 2 long-sleeved winter running shirts, a running jacket, my winter jacket, and a Blackhawks jersey
- Balaclava, scarf, ski hat, and Blackhawks knit hat
- 2 pairs of gloves
Adam and I also brought two blankets, plus some cardboard pieces to sit on and to put underneath our feet.
"Shapeless blob" is the way that I would describe how I looked and felt wearing that quantity of layers. To illustrate, it was kind of like this:
|(Note that the shapeless blob was wearing red to represent the Blackhawks)
On the bus ride enroute to Soldier Field, it was really easy to identify which passengers were headed to the game. Many were wearing full-body ski suits and masks with their jerseys. Plenty of other hockey fans had successfully achieved similarly shapeless blobdom as I did.
After we arrived at Soldier Field, we went to check out the NHL Fan Festival being held next to the stadium.
|The stage where they had live music performers.
|Dueling Stanley Cup ring hats
|Adam and I cross-representing our two favorite teams.
Left: A giant Blackhawks jersey!
Right: A giant Penguins jersey!
|Fans getting into the spirit of things
We played some Blackhawks and Penguins trivia games, checked out a few merchandise stands, and collected a random assortment of sponsor giveaways (Advil, Shamrock Shake coupons, and Geico water bottles, to name a few). Then we went through the stadium security lines to enter Soldier Field.
It wasn't much warmer inside the Soldier Field concourses compared to outdoors. Unfortunately, our seats were in the upper deck of the north end zone where there was exactly zero protection from the elements. We reluctantly climbed the stairs towards the upper deck. The wind was howling and the snowfall was steadily increasing. Once we got to our seats, we immediately decided it would be best to go back inside and stay there as long as possible.
The indoor bathrooms were heated and were by far the warmest area in the entire building. Therefore, Adam and I decided to go hang out in our respective bathrooms and meet back up in a few minutes. Plenty of other women were standing around in the ladies room just trying to keep warm. Adam said the same was true in the men's room.
The time came to go to our seats. Here are some pictures from where we were sitting:
|One of the scoreboards behind us
As the pregame ceremonies and the game got underway, the snow came down in buckets. It made visibility very challenging. Our seats were far away and high up to begin with, so it would have been difficult to see the game even in clear conditions. It was like watching an ant farm.
Additionally, numerous fans were standing up and blocking what limited view many folks did have. This elicited some raucous shouting for everyone to sit down. The standees generally ignored them. As time went on, the demands to sit down became progressively more and more comical and/or derisive. If my own view wasn't being blocked, it would have been almost entertaining to listen to some of the exchanges.
Despite all the layers I was wearing, it was so cold that I had no feeling in my hands or feet. My blanket, jeans, gloves, and balaclava were all getting wet from the snow, too.
Game attendance was announced at over 62,000. During the intermissions, the entire crowd (men and women alike) made a mad dash to the concourses, food/beverage vendors, and especially the warmth of the bathrooms. When you've got pretty much the entire population crammed into a concourse all at once, many of them inebriated, things can get pretty squishy. Basically, you really need to make sure that you keep your balance!
I've made it blatantly obvious that my most lasting memory of this game is going to be the weather. But that aside, it was a unique experience getting to be a part of 62,000+ screaming hockey fans gathered under the outdoor lights. Blackhawks fans have the long-time tradition of cheering and clapping as loudly as they can during the national anthem at home games, and to see that tradition in action at Soldier Field was cool. It was also fun to see the masses celebrating, singing, and dancing to Chelsea Dagger whenever the Hawks scored a goal.
|Hawks win! Hawks win!
The final count for the night?
Zero Tommy Hawk sightings
Zero discussions of the doom scenario (believe it or not), despite the game being played by...
Two of my favorite NHL teams
Five degrees Fahrenheit (the real-feel temperature during the game)
Six goals scored by Hawks players, including one in the wrong net
45 minutes, give or take, that I spent huddling for warmth in the ladies room over the course of the night
62,921 rabid fans in attendance
97,836,523,314 gallons of hot chocolate that I consumed when I got home
|O come, all ye hot chocolate...