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The NHL announced Wednesday that the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins will play at Soldier Field on March 1, 2014.
The outdoor game in Chicago is the first of many the NHL said it plans to announce in the coming weeks as part of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series."Our fans and our teams love outdoor games and we are thrilled the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series will present a number of these experiences to a large number of our fans in a variety of National Hockey League markets," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
"The Chicago game, at Soldier Field, will be a match-up of two recent Stanley Cup champions at a landmark stadium. We thank the Blackhawks and Penguins, Coors Light, Soldier Field and everyone involved in what will be a memorable, exciting and fun event."
The Blackhawks previously participated in the Winter Classic when they played the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field before 40,818 fans in 2009.
"The Chicago Blackhawks are privileged to be included in the National Hockey League's Stadium Series," Blackhawks president & CEO John McDonough said in a statement. "Hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at iconic Soldier Field promises to be a unique experience for our organization and our fans."
The Penguins have played in two previous outdoor games. They faced the Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., in the first Winter Classic in 2008 and played the Washington Capitals at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh in 2011. The 2011 NHL Winter Classic was the most-watched NHL regular-season game ever in the U.S. with an average of 4.5 million viewers.
"The Penguins are excited to be selected for the NHL Stadium Series in Chicago, and it will be a special honor for our players to be able to skate at Soldier Field," Penguins president and CEO David Morehouse said in a statement. "Soldier Field is one of the iconic venues in our country, a stadium that's filled with so much sports history. We look forward to writing a new chapter with the Blackhawks on March 1."
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville last month raved about his outdoor hockey experience and was hopeful of getting another chance of it at Soldier Field.
"I think it's the best," Quenneville said. "Of all the games we've ever been involved with as a player or coach, I would have to say that was the coolest game to be a part of. If we get invited, it would be something special. That environment would be over the top."
The Blackhawks got a taste of what it would be like to play at Soldier Field in February when they skated with the USA Warriors Ice Hockey Program at the stadium. Later in the week, Soldier Field held two college hockey games.
Blackhawks rookie Brandon Saad, a Pittsburgh native, said in April it would be special to play the Penguins at Soldier Field.
"I skated on a couple ponds when I was younger, but nothing like a stadium like that," Saad said. "I couldn't imagine it being filled. ... That's going to be cool, for sure. That's going to be my first time playing outside. I know we skated there this year. Playing in the game, it's going to be pretty awesome regardless of who we play. I think it's cool. Playing against Pittsburgh would be fun. Just [being my] hometown, they get it hyped up and things like that."