Colorado Avalanche: Players Recall Playing Outdoor Hockey

View from The Rooftop of Coors Field being prepared for the Stadium Series game. Photo credit: Nadia Archuleta
View from The Rooftop of Coors Field being prepared for the Stadium Series game. Photo credit: Nadia Archuleta /

The Colorado Avalanche are hosting the Detroit Red Wings for the Coors Light Stadium Series game on February 27. Some players already have experience playing outdoors.

Center John Mitchell skated with the New York Rangers in the 2012 Winter Classic. In fact, Mitchell told the Avalanche website that the lack of proximity to the crowd can be disconcerting:

"“You kind of feel like you are playing in a minor hockey rink because there are really no stands right there, right beside you. But then when you look up and take a look around, you see that there is close to 50,000 people in the stands.”"

Goalie Calvin Pickard played for the Lake Erie Monsters in the 2013 Frozen Frontier. He remembers a similar experience as Mitchell:

"“It was pretty interesting because it’s a far away crowd and whenever a team would score, it would be a two-second pause then all the fans would realize it was a goal. It was a little bit different than a crowd right on top of you.”"

Right wing Jarome Iginla played for the Calgary Flames in the 2011 Tim Hortons Heritage Classic. His most vivid memory of that game was the weather:

"“It was cold, it was at least minus-20 degrees Celsius as a night game, but we had heated benches. I felt for our fans. You know they packed [the stadium], but it was truly freezing.”"

Mitchell also recalled the weather on that day. Frankly it was like a Colorado day, starting with warm temperatures and sun glare before dropping to 41 degrees and eventually even snowing. Mitchell remarked:

"“You had to be prepared for anything—snow, rain, whatever it could have been.”"

That’s going to be true on Saturday’s game as well. The forecast is for a balmy 67 degrees, but that could change to snow in the span of two hours. (No joke — you haven’t lived to you watch a Colorado cold front roll in.)

Pickard, who will sit as Semyon Varlamov‘s backup, will be prepared as well. In the Frozen Frontier game, the temperature was in the low teens. What’s more, the field was covered with snow. He talked about getting cold:

"“It was in Rochester so it was right on the lake, and there were a few times in that game where I didn’t get a shot for a while and I ended up getting pretty cold. You know you had to find a way to stay warm and mental is one thing, but that night it was freezing cold.”"

Iginla, for his part, played tons of cold pond hockey when he was growing up:

"“We had a rink just down the block from my grandparents; I would go there every day after school. Here it gets too warm, but there it was the too cold days that you would try to go in and out of a little shack we had to warm up for 10 minutes.”"

Center Matt Duchene also skated on an outdoor rink growing up — it’s just that his was in his own backyard. During a Colorado Avalanche podcast, Duchene talked about how his father would freeze over the backyard in their cold Canadian town:

"“I had my rink from the middle of December to… one year we still had it in the middle of April.”"

He talked also about how his dad would freeze over the rink at night even as the weather got warmer so Matt could go outside in the morning and practice. He added:

"“Obviously in the small towns you don’t have the same resources as the city kids. That was my training until the World Championship came around.”"

In other words, you could say Matt Duchene owes some of his skill to playing pond hockey! Indeed, Duchene remarked that he thought of pond hockey as the “truest form of hockey.”

Next: Coors Field Prepared for Stadium Series Game

On the evening of February 27, Colorado Avalanche fans and the team will get to share some of that magic together during the Stadium Series game at Coors Field.