The Winter Classic is a spectacle. In many ways, the hockey game is second to the show surrounding it. However, there is indeed a hockey game to be played and that hockey game counts the exact same as every other one the Golden Knights have played so far this year.
The players and coaches got to skate on the outdoor rink at T-Mobile Park for the first time yesterday and they clued us in on some of the differences they noticed between playing indoors and playing at a baseball park.
When asked about the ice, just about every player on both teams mentioned that it was a bit “sticky.” What they mean by that is that the puck doesn’t always slide as consistently as it does in a normal rink. Every Golden Knights player I spoke to mentioned that the ice conditions are not bad to skate on, but the puck was unpredictable.
I do know it’ll be the same for both teams which probably forces you to play with your head down a little more to make sure it’s on your stick. That can put you in some physical situations you don’t want to be in. At the end of the day, pass it harder. And on the flip side of it when you are checking don’t assume the puck is going to move because it could happen to them where the puck sticks and they overskate it. -Cassidy
In a normal rink, there are fans along the glass around the rink, especially behind the goals. At T-Mobile Park, outdoors, there’s a sizeable gap between the players and the glass.
Going back on pucks there’s usually the glass and the crowd, now there’s glass and there’s space and then the crowd so I don’t know if that’ll effect their perception going back. That’s one that I would anticipate when a defenseman is going back on a puck with pressure it’ll be a little different. -Cassidy
On top of that, the openness can lead to some other aspects of the game feeling a bit different as well.
It is a little different. You kind of have this hollow feeling underneath you and the boards can have some different bounces. -Alec Martinez
The biggest part of this is with the goalies. They are used to the same backdrops as players send shots their way. Today, they’ll be completely different. There’s another element mentioned below that affects the guys between the pipes even more too.
The sky comes into play on this one as a few different players told me when the puck reaches a point higher than the dasher boards it can be difficult to pick up. Players are used to looking up into lights rather than the blue (or likely grey) sky in the open-air park. Defensemen mentioned an extra focus on keeping the puck in front of them when it gets up in the air.
The first few will be crucial as the teams will get a feel for how much of a challenge it presents. If it does prove to be troublesome, you better believe there will be a lot of them sent skyward to try and take advantage.
That pesky giant fireball in the sky could be an issue once again in this outdoor game. No, don’t expect it to do anything like it did in Tahoe where it melted the ice and caused a half-day delay, but if it peaks out through the clouds it will definitely impact the vision of every player on the ice. The Golden Knights’ practice was done mostly under cloud cover, but Kraken players mentioned the challenge it presented them when they were out there with it shining down.
Again, goalies are the most at risk of sun-related errors. The glare off the ice has a strong chance of making shots look a lot different than normal. The Golden Knights shoot the puck quite a bit more than the Kraken normally, so that could be advantage Vegas.
Center ice logo
Not only does the logo feature a lot of dark blue and black, but it’s also gigantic. It nearly stretches from blue line to blue line. A good portion of the neutral zone is on top of the logo.
The center ice logo is dark so plays going through the center you might see some passes that go through there that people lose sight of for a second. -Cassidy
The neutral zone is important in every hockey game, and with this added element of unpredictability, it’ll be especially important in this one.
There may be even more factors that come into play as the players learn more about the surroundings as the game goes on. But, in the wise words of the Golden Knights’ leading scorer…
At the end of the day, hockey is hockey. -Jack Eichel