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Blackhawks not playing outdoor game for 1st time in 5 years

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The joke is dead ... for now!

NHL: Winter Classic-Chicago Blackhawks at St. Louis Blues Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL announced a whole bunch of news for the next year on Monday, including the slate of outdoor games for the 2017-18 season. Usually this is a time to mock the Chicago Blackhawks’ annual appearance enjoying the open air, but something miraculous has happened: the Blackhawks aren’t playing outdoors in 2018.

It’s true.*

This is a big development, especially for merchandise distributors in the Chicago area that thrive on selling six different editions of Blackhawks jerseys every year. The Blackhawks have played an outdoor game each of the past four years, the longest streak of any team in the league.

The run began in 2014 with Blackhawks hosting the Penguins at Soldier Field before they headed to D.C. to face the Capitals in 2015. Last year, the Blackhawks met the Wild in Minneapolis for the Stadium Series, and this year, they returned to the Winter Classic to play the Blues at Busch Stadium.

There had been speculation of a possible Blackhawks outdoor game hosted at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., but there will be only three NHL outdoor games in 2018 if the current announcement holds. Here are those games:

  • Canadiens vs. Senators at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, Dec. 16
  • Rangers vs. Sabres at Citi Field in New York, Jan. 1
  • Maple Leafs vs. Capitals at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, March 3

That’s still a pretty good slate of games, especially the final matchup at the military academy featuring Alex Ovechkin vs. Auston Matthews. The chance to get Jack Eichel on the national stage on New Year’s Day against the Rangers is a pretty sweet deal, too.

But there’s no Blackhawks game, and that would be the first time that hasn’t happened since the 2012-13 season.

*Well, true for now. The NHL unveils the remainder of the 2017-18 regular season schedule during the expansion draft festivities in Las Vegas next month. I won’t put it past them to surprise us all with “Blackhawks-Blues, Outdoor Boogaloo.”