PHILADELPHIA -- While the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers is the prime event for the ice rink being built here at Citizens Bank Park, it's far from the only event.
Representatives from four college teams that will play here after the NHL leaves got their first tour of stadium Wednesday, and walked away highly impressed.
"It's kind of breathtaking," Drexel University coach Greg Marinari told NHL.com. His team will play Villanova University on Jan. 5, one day after Penn State plays Neumann University. "It's very exciting to see all the work they're putting in."
Marinari said he told his players about the game following a game in early December, and said the reaction "was so loud outside the locker room that the parents were asking what the big announcement was."
Bill Downey, Penn State's director of hockey operations, said his players had the same reaction when they learned they would be playing outside at Citizens Bank Park.
"We were actually on a trip down to Liberty University in Virginia, we're on the bus … they were getting all the information from social networking, via Twitter and Facebook," Downey told NHL.com, "so we could hear them start rumbling in the back of the bus. We didn't want to tell them until the end of the weekend, but in this day and age, that stuff comes out pretty quickly. They were thrilled. I know they couldn't be more excited to play in the game."
The game will be a boon for PSU, which moves from a non-varsity team to NCAA Division I next season. Currently, PSU plays as an independent in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, before joining the new Big Ten conference in 2013-14.
"To have an opportunity for our school to come play here, it's going to mean so much to the players moving forward, as a memory for them," said Downey. "I couldn't be more happy for the players, and for the program it's such a step in the right direction."
Downey said he was in Pittsburgh last year for the 2011 Winter Classic, and has talked to people from other college and NHL teams that have played outside for advice. What they've told him is that there's not a lot, really, you can plan for in advance.
"We've been talking to a bunch of people, trying to figure some things out," he said. "It's such a crapshoot with what the weather is going to be like. You can plan for a thousand things, but you might drive yourself crazy doing that. When the day comes, we'll be ready to go and be mentally focused.
"I think the biggest thing is to try and eliminate some of the awe factor of walking into a venue like this and just allowing them to play a game as normally as possible. They're all going to be excited and just having them prepare and be ready mentally to play the game is most important."
Marinari said he's gotten the same advice for when his team faces Villanova in another chapter in their area rivalry -- both are members of the ACHA Eastern College Hockey Association.
"You're still putting on your skates, you're still putting on your pads," he said. "Maybe now you're putting an extra layer underneath, but you're still playing a hockey game.
"It's very exciting. I cannot wait."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK