NHL hopes for ice dream

Thursday’s NHL Winter Classic at Wrigley Field has received plenty of hype. And rightly so, given the success of last season’s event in Buffalo where the Sabres and Penguins skated through the snow at Ralph Wilson Stadium in front of 70,000 fans. But the guy responsible for making it happen says things will be better the second time around, snow or no snow.

Dan Craig, who is in charge of installing the outdoor rink that the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings will skate on, said the ice will be better than Buffalo’s surface, which required several stoppages to patch up holes.

Craig has been working at Wrigley since mid-December with a crew of ice-installing experts. His biggest concern right now? The weather.

“Mid-20s (temperature) would be ideal,” he told the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. “That would be a really nice day. And if we had a snowfall the night before to make everything nice and white — that would be perfect.”

• BEST SEATS — Anyone who has been to a Cubs game at Wrigley knows the best place to sit is in the bleachers.

The next best place? Across the street.

James Murphy, who owns Murphy’s Bleachers bar on Sheffield Avenue, also has rooftop seating. But it wasn’t until last week that he knew for sure he could put people on the roof Thursday.

“We didn’t know what the view would be like,” he told NHL.com. “But it’s fantastic.”

That view will cost $250. But it includes food and drink. Of course, all the rooftop seats are gone. But Murphy has a bigger problem on his hands. Today is New Year’s Eve, and his establishment will be open until 4 a.m. He plans to re-open at 8 a.m. to accommodate the hockey fans attending the Winter Classic.

• WHO NEEDS TWO? — Maybe it’s the economy. Or maybe there’s a sense of doom. But the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals had tickets available at regular prices Tuesday for the opening round of the NFL playoffs.

The Cardinals, who host Atlanta on Saturday, had plenty of seats available. So did the Vikings, who host Philadelphia on Sunday.

The AFC playoffs didn’t have that problem as the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers appeared to have sold out their games, according to ticketmaster.com.

• SAME OLD JETS — Rich Cimini, the longtime Jets beat writer for the New York Daily News, has seen his share of bad football over the years. Here was his take from his blog on the state of the J-E-T-S:

“The years go by, the faces change, but one thing never changes: the Jets remain a mess,” he wrote.

“Everybody deserves blame in this latest debacle: Owner Woody Johnson, former coach Eric Mangini and QB Brett Favre.

“Mangini never wanted Favre, it was learned (Monday), but he welcomed the future Hall of Famer and tried to make it work. I don’t think GM Mike Tannenbaum wanted him, either, but Johnson, trying to market his new stadium, was infatuated with Favre and essentially told Tannenbaum, ‘Go get him.’ So he did, adding a last-minute wild card and changing the way they played offense.

“But, hey, they sold tons of ‘4’ jerseys. In the end, Favre cost Mangini his job, throwing nine interceptions in the final five games. You name me a coach that could overcome that many mistakes.”

COMPILED BY STEVE CARP LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

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