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Wild players excited for Winter Classic β€” well, except for bitter cold part

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Years of languor turned into months of anticipation, then weeks of waiting.

Now the countdown to the Winter Classic Saturday at Target Field between the Wild and the Blues is finally over in days, hours and minutes.

β€œEveryone is excited,” said Wild assistant captain Matt Dumba. β€œThere is buzz in the city. Even being at the grocery store, you see little things setting in and everyone is getting ready for the Winter Classic. It’s pretty cool. “

With a draped rink over the infield and eight additional ice patches set up in the outfield in homage to pond hockey, the Twins’ home has already been transformed into a hockey home. There’s also a log cabin, pine trees, and ice fishing holes, the NHL taking inspiration from the Minnesota outdoors to create “Lake Winter Classic.”

β€œWe are proud to be the state of hockey,” said defenseman Alex Goligoski of Grand Rapids. “Such great hockey communities here so it’s great for the state.”

But Target Field won’t just look like a winter oasis. The New Year’s show will also be on hand.

“I’m not ready for this,” said winger Jordan Greenway. “I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t worried about this at all.”

Temperatures on Saturday are expected to remain below zero degrees with a high of minus-7 and the low plunging to minus-21. Puck Drop is at 6 p.m. and airs nationally on TNT, the NHL’s premier winter classic in prime time.

“These are the conditions that we are definitely monitoring,” said Mike Craig, senior manager of the league’s hockey facilities and operations. β€œWe actually have two in-line heaters that will be part of our system. The ideal temperature when we’re out here for the ice is around 22-24. We monitor that and then if we need to adjust and add a little bit. heat to the system, we can. “

Of all the outdoor showcases in NHL history, this has the potential to be the coldest.

The Edmonton Heritage Classic between the Oilers and the Canadiens in 2003, the league’s first away game, is currently the coldest at 0 degrees. Michigan Stadium holds the record for the coolest winter classic in 2014 with the Red Wings and Maple Leafs at 13 degrees.

Earlier this year, when Target Field was originally supposed to host the Winter Classic on January 1 before the game was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the temperature was 23 degrees.

“I’m not expecting it at all, that ending for sure,” Wild coach Dean Evason said of the forecast. β€œBut apparently it’s a lot of heat on the bench. Hopefully we can be near the heaters. As someone who grew up playing in northern Manitoba, once you get there you won’t. will feel more. As coaches, we are going to feel it. But the players will not. “

Stay warm ?

Dumba could wear long sleeves under his gear and black eyes.

β€œIt helps reflect the lights and keeps you connected,” he said. “It can be a lot to be under all the lighting they have in the stadium to have it at night. So I think that’s what I’m going to use it for.”

Goligoski does not plan to add additional layers. Goalkeeper Cam Talbot doesn’t want a bulkier outfit either.

β€œI try not to add too much,” said Talbot. β€œYou’re sweating enough outside, and I hope it’s not too windy. That makes it a bit worse. Obviously, if it’s windy, we’ll see if we need to do something. change what I usually wear.

Talbot, however, made a change in the last away game he played, donning a knit beanie over his mask when he shut out the Jets with the Oilers at the 2016 Heritage Classic in Winnipeg.

β€œI’ll see if I do it again,” he said.

His teammate Mats Zuccarello also has experience in this setting, having adapted for the New York Rangers in two games at Yankee Stadium in 2014 and in the 2018 Winter Classic at Citi Field against the Sabers where the temperature was 21 degrees.

“I had a full mask,” Zuccarello remembers. β€œI don’t like being cold, especially when I’m playing. I’m sure we have some tips we can use. But once you get into the game, you don’t really feel it. match you think you’re going to be cold, but during the match you don’t really think about it. “

Represent the Twin Cities

With or without additional equipment, the Wild’s outfit will be different as the team launches its Winter Classic jersey.

While the traditional team green is highlighted, new details include two stars representing Minneapolis and St. Paul and the outline of the state to accompany canvas gloves and pants.

Backup goalie Kaapo Kahkonen kept that vintage vibe by adopting brown pads, while Talbot’s setup has the same color scheme as the jersey. His mask is an ode to hockey and baseball, with skaters on one side and the Twins logo on the other. The number of retired Twins players is scattered.

“I’ve had this idea in my head for a while now,” said Talbot, “since we found out we were going to play.”

The announcement, now almost two years ago, ended a long chase by the Wild to host the league’s flagship event after previously playing in just one other outdoor game: a Stadium Series game on the 21st. February 2016, at TCF Bank Stadium as the Wild won 6-1 against the Blackhawks.

St. Louis has also only participated once away: the 2017 Winter Classic at Busch Stadium also against Chicago.

Overall, this will be the 13th NHL Winter Classic, the 33rd outdoor game and the first of three scheduled outdoor shows this season.

β€œYou never know if you’re going to get another one,” Talbot said. β€œSo you just take everything into account. “

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