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2025 Winter Classic will be played at Wrigley Field

It was an uneventful practice at Fifth Third Arena on Tuesday, and that’s a good thing for the Chicago Blackhawks. Something much needed.

Tyler Johnson skated a second straight workout and looks ready to take on a regular workload, with Jason Dickinson practicing after a grooming day.

The injury bug hasn’t been good for the Hawks this season, but Johnson’s luck overall has been, in his own words, downright “weird.”

Johnson said he hurt his right foot while backchecking in Dallas on Dec. 31.

“(I) actually hit a guy and my toe hit the boards and broke a few bones there,” he said. “This is such a thing (semi-retired coach Mike Gapski) he even said he hadn’t seen it since leather skates.”

Last season, Johnson sprained his left ankle during a freak collision with Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov on Oct. 25, 2022, and remained on injured reserve until mid-December.

That January, he returned to IR with a left ankle injury, which he later said was “a little bit different but related to the previous injury.”

“It’s been a weird few years here,” Johnson said. “So I would like to have a slightly different chance.”

Here are three things we learned.

1. Wrigley Field will add a different wrinkle.

David Stluka/Getty Images

An aerial view of Wrigley Field during the Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks on January 1, 2009. (David Stluka/Getty Images)

The Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field will host the Hawks against St. Louis, a source confirmed to the Tribune on Tuesday. It will host the 2025 Winter Classic between the St. Louis Blues.

“This is incredible,” Jason Dickinson said.

The Hawks last played in the Winter Classic (or any outdoor game) against the Boston Bruins on Jan. 1, 2019, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind. The Hawks were 0-4 in Winter Classic events and were previously hosted at Wrigley Field on January 1, 2009.

The 2025 match will represent a first for coach Luke Richardson as both player and coach.

“It would be really exciting for me to be involved in one of these,” he said. “I know players always love and appreciate that opportunity.”

Dickinson needs to experience this, and there is nothing like it.

“You feel like a kid playing hockey again,” he said. “There were 100,000 people there in Dallas, it’s a completely different feeling.”

Dickinson had an assist in the Stars’ 4-2 comeback victory at Cotton Bowl Stadium on January 1, 2020.

“It’s going to be special,” he said of the Classic reportedly coming to Chicago. “And Wrigley, a multi-story stadium, what an incredible place to do that.”

2. The Hawks need some juice from Johnson.

Chicago Blackhawks center Tyler Johnson (90) and Nashville Predators center Gustav Nyquist (14) skate to the puck during the first period at the United Center on Dec. 5, 2023.

John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune

Chicago Blackhawks center Tyler Johnson and Nashville Predators center Gustav Nyquist slide toward the puck during the first period at the United Center on Dec. 5, 2023.

During Johnson’s stretch on the court, the Hawks jumped out to a 3-11-0 lead and fell behind 40-17 (not counting the shootout in the San Jose win).

Dickinson said: “He’s another great player we missed. He gives an edge on offense, he helps the power play, he helps the six-on-five. He plays the most important moments of the match for us.”

Richardson appeared to have no reservations about putting Johnson, who had two goals in the first leg of the trip to Dallas, in the final spot.

“Unless something changes between today and tomorrow, (MacKenzie) will be on the right wing with (MacKenzie) Entwistle and (Lukas) Reichel,” Richardson said.

“He’s a versatile guy. “He can get anywhere and play center a little bit if we need to switch things up and get something going.”

The Hawks also plan to use Johnson on the power play.

“He’s not the biggest man in the world, but he goes into tough areas and scores a lot of goals there,” Richardson said.

An underrated, under-appreciated art form.

“I think it’s about willpower in front of the net, defensively and offensively,” Johnson said. “It’s tough playing there. I don’t think people realize that when you’re in front of the net, you’re constantly being cross-checked, beheaded, abused and it goes both ways.”

“So you really have to compete, you have to want to be there, you have to try to get into those dirty areas, and what actually happens when you do that is truly amazing.”

3. “Being outside” comes with a warning.

Dallas Stars fans watch during the second period of the NHL Winter Classic hockey game between the Dallas Stars and the Nashville Predators at the Cotton Bowl on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020, in Dallas.  The match that Dallas won 4-2.  (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)
Dallas Stars fans watch the game between the Dallas Stars and the Nashville Predators during the second period of the NHL Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl on Wednesday, January 1, 2020 in Dallas. (Jeffrey McWhorter/Associated Press)

Richardson said the last time he played hockey outdoors was as a kid.

“Mine was always at the outdoor rink and the canal in Ottawa,” he said. “I skated a few times.

“Last time I did it, it was so cold. I thought I was doing the smarter thing by moving with the wind, until I realized I had to slide seven kilometers back into the wind and it was hard. That reminded me I had to be smart.”

Playing in a Winter Classic, Dickinson said players need to pay attention to the conditions.

“The ice was garbage at practice the day before,” he said. “It was scary. We were all worried. ‘This will be a very simple game. You’ll just chip and chase. You won’t be able to make many plays because the puck won’t come with you.’

“The next day the ice was crispy, perfect. There was nothing to complain about. So you didn’t need to make any adjustments.”

Fortunately in this case the game was similar to other games.

“The problem is, when it’s really sunny and wet, the ice gets sticky and doesn’t slide as well, so you have to be a little more careful from time to time,” Dickinson said. “But we have great ice makers around the league who take great pride in what they do, and they try to give us the best product.”

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