SOUTH LOOP — A snow-covered Soldier Field tailgate is usually the domain of Cutler, Forte and Butkus. But Saturday's festivities belonged to Toews and Kane, and even Crosby and Lemieux.
Before more than 60,000 hockey fans packed the home of the Bears for the final installment of the NHL's Stadium Series, pitting the Blackhawks against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the tailgating tradition was given a snowy spin, with street hockey pucks flying instead of footballs.
Ziggy Bednarz, 60, of Park Ridge, took pride in tailgating during the cold weather explaining the weather was part and parcel of hockey.
"It's a hockey game," he said. "You either love it or you don't."
The Hawks season-ticket holder was excited for days before the game and stuck his nose up at anyone complaining about the weather.
"It means a lot. You don't get it all the time and when the opportunity comes you take advantage of it. You buy the ticket, you go to the game and enjoy it to the fullest," said Bednarz.
Even if that means preparing for rough conditions: snow fell throughout the game, and it was 17 degrees when the puck dropped about 7 p.m.
Chris Alagna, 39, arrived with his son and friends around 3:30, two-and-a-half hours before gametime. As the temperatures dipped and snow began to fall so did his excitement for the game - until he received a gentle reminder of why he came in the first place.
"These kids came out with their sticks and their street hockey pucks, and they don't care what temperature it is. They're out having a whole bunch of fun and that's all that matters," he said. "If they're having fun we're having fun," Alagna said.
Algana said the experience was worth it as long as his 10-year-old son remembers playing hockey with his dad before watching the Hawks play.
Logan Slipetz is no stranger to tailgating after sparking up the grill in the Soldier Field parking lot for every home Bears game. Usually, he's scattered among a sea of orange and navy but Saturday the colors were red and black.
It was almost like readying to watch the Bears, he said.
"Normally I'd say it's warmer [in March], but today it feels like we're in the middle of December," said Slipetz, 30, of St. Charles.
He said the weather was "fantastic" to line his grill with burgers, perogis and chicken wings but his wife and mother disagreed. As he used his single heater and beer to keep himself warm they sought heat in a more conventional way, a few feet away inside his SUV.
The winter conditions didn't hamper the Hawks, either, who played a strong game against the Metropolitan Division-leading Pens, and winning 5-1 behind two goals from Jonathan Toews.
"It honestly did feel like we were playing shinny hockey in the backyard," he told NHL.com.
"It felt like a real outdoor game. There was no systems or structure to our game," said forward Patrick Sharp, who added a goal. "We were just kind of hoisting the puck around, slapping the puck around and having fun doing it. It was a fun experience and I'm glad I got to be part of it."