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Hawks at Soldier Field a sellout, but not a hot ticket

Published: Saturday, March 1, 2014 7:54 p.m. CDT
Two Blackhawks fans look out over the ice Saturday before an NHL Stadium Series hockey game between the Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

CHICAGO – Hey, buddy. Got extras?

As a steady snow pelted hockey fans Saturday afternoon, Bill Thomas scoured the Soldier Field parking lot, seeking entry into the evening’s Blackhawks-Penguins outdoor game.

Like his fellow ticket-seekers, Thomas’ initial search started online, where tickets were going for as much as $200. Four hours before the puck dropped, tickets remained at Ticketmaster trailers located outside Soldier Field. The event – part of the NHL’s Stadium Series effort to showcase outdoor hockey – was touted as a sellout before a late offering of tickets became available.

Paying retail, however, didn’t meet Thomas’ budget.

Thomas figured given the forecast for frigid temperatures and periods of snow, he would give the secondary market a shot.

“I figured I would have a decent chance of getting a single [ticket] cheap,” said Thomas, who lives in Wrigleyville. “I’m still looking.”

Before answering how much he was willing to fork over to get through the turnstiles, Thomas was gone, continuing his search.

Fans who spent Saturday afternoon attempting to find tickets reported that tickets could be had for anywhere between $50 and $100. As big of an event as Saturday’s game was, however, fans who arrived without tickets had their limits.

“I’d probably be willing to go $100 – I'm just not going to pay what they're asking online,” said one bundled-up fan who asked not to be identified. “I should be able to find something.”

Among those who didn’t need tickets was Hawks national anthem singer Jim Cornelison.

Cornelison also performed at the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field and at the 2011 Bears-Seahawks playoff game when conditions rivaled Saturday night’s, complete with sub-freezing temperatures and swirling winds and snow.

About 45 minutes before game time, Cornelison waited outside the Hawks' dressing room in the stadium’s ground level, bundled up in a black wool overcoat, pacing to stay warm before venturing into the cold night air.

As always, the show would go on.

“The job’s the same,” Cornelison said. “And really, it’s not the snow that’s bad. It’s more the event. It’s such a big event that you really have to create a bubble, a space for yourself, because there’s so much going on around you.”

As game time drew closer, a few scalpers made their way through a sea of tailgaters huddled around fire pits and charcoal grills. They flashed what they had to offer and offered a starting price, suggesting they would be willing to negotiate.

Brad Mori showed up with about 15 buddies – about half of whom had secured tickets. Taking a beer break from a street hockey game being played on the top level of a parking deck, Mori said his decision not to seek tickets had more to do with weather conditions than finances.

Mori said his girlfriend informed him she was unwilling to sit through a hockey game with temperatures that registered 17 degrees when the puck dropped. The couple took in Wrigley’s Winter Classic as well as last year’s College Classic at Soldier Field. They are regulars at Hawks games at the United Center, making it easy for her to pass on enduring Saturday night’s chilly conditions.

“I told her she didn’t have to do that again,” said Mori, who layered a red Jonathan Toews sweater over a black hooded sweatshirt. “We did it once.”

Mori planned to join half of his friends at his nearby home to watch the game on TV. But he wouldn’t pass up coming over Saturday afternoon to take in the environment.

Even though he wouldn’t get inside Saturday night, the trip over and experiencing the conditions for a few hours was well worth it.

“How often do you get to tailgate a Blackhawks game,” Mori said. “We weren’t about to pass up this opportunity. We’re supposed to get 5 inches of snow, and it’s starting to flurry right now.

“This is the best.”

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