Rangers forward Mike Rupp is less than 24 hours away from playing in his second straight Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. Rupp suited up for the Pittsburgh Penguins at Heinz Field last year, and is scheduled to skate for the New York Rangers against the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday at Citizens Bank Park.
Rupp agreed to offer his opinions in blog form leading up to the main event Monday.
It is fantastic to be back here at another Winter Classic. To think that most guys don't even get to experience one of these, and I'm lucky enough to experience two of them in back-to-back years; it is really just amazing.
The thing that I remember the most and the best thing about last year's game in Pittsburgh was walking out onto the field -- or ice, I guess -- for warm-ups and experiencing that. It was just so cool to look up and see close to 70,000 people there to watch a hockey game.
Then there were the moments after hard-fought periods when you hear the fans as you're coming out for the second or third -- they are the ones that I really remember most and cherish.
Walking out onto the field here today, yeah, it's cool. You look around and see the stadium, but tomorrow is the pinnacle of it.
What was interesting was last year they had us walking out for the game side-by-side with the Capitals. We were basically shoulder-to-shoulder and that was just so awkward. It was especially awkward in the tunnel as we were waiting for our cue to start walking onto the field.
They didn't tell us that we were going to be doing that last year, and all of a sudden there the Capitals walked up alongside of us. I remember thinking how strange it was. All of our routines that we do to get each other pumped up, they all were basically forgotten about and it just went quiet for a few moments. Everyone was just kind of standing there. It was very awkward.
There was that uncomfortable feeling in the air, so much tension; so we just started chirping each other, saying things like, 'Let's get all over these idiots,' just to break the ice.
But you know what? It was neat the way they did it. I doubt they'll do it that way this year since we can go out in our separate dugouts.
As I think about the game now, with less than 24 hours left before puck drop, I remember what happened last year and how it felt to lose.
It felt like we just got eliminated from the playoffs. You're sitting there thinking how it's only two points, and you keep telling yourself that leading up to the game, but there is also that Catch-22 because it's such a big game and you know so many people are watching it.
Then again, two points in this League are so huge, so we couldn't let it carry on and carry us into a funk.
The two points up for grabs tomorrow could be the difference in a top-four seed, an Atlantic Division title, or maybe even being in or out of the playoffs altogether. It's important to get two points tomorrow.