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After two Winter Classics, Conklin staying home

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

"Last year, being in Wrigley, two Original Six teams, it was pretty neat. Last year the ice was good. They didn't have a lot of problems with the ice. The weather was pretty reasonable. Little more physical game than the other two. Felt a lot like a regular game"
-- Ty Conklin

Ty Conklin will do something entirely different this New Year's Day.

Watch TV.

That's a far cry than what he's done the last two Jan. 1s, when he's been the starting goalie in the Winter Classic.

In fact, Conklin has been a starting goalie at all three outdoor NHL games -- with the Edmonton Oilers in the Heritage Classic in 2003; with the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2008 Winter Classic; and with the Detroit Red Wings at the 2009 Winter Classic.

"I had really good experiences there, really enjoyed them all," Conklin told NHL.com. "They were all fun, really good times."

For the record, the most experienced goaltender in outdoor NHL history is 2-1 with a 2.95 goals-against average. He allowed four goals on 23 shots in losing the Heritage Classic, 4-3, to the Canadiens; stopped 36 of 37 shots, and two of three chances in the shootout, as the Penguins beat the Sabres, 2-1; and made 33 saves last season in a 6-4 Red Wings defeat of the Blackhawks.

Conklin said he couldn't pick out one game he liked better than any of the others; each event had something different that made it unique and special.

The first game, Nov. 22, 2003 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, was the first regular-season NHL game ever played outside. The obscenely cold temperature was what stood out the most, as the wind chill made it feel like it was minus-22 degrees.

"It was tough the first one because it was so cold. I think that affected the game," Conklin said. "It affected the quality of play."

On Jan. 1, 2008, the Penguins and Sabres played outside at Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the NFL's Buffalo Bills, in the first game played under the NHL Winter Classic banner. That game was won on Sidney Crosby's memorable shootout goal in the snow.

"The one in Buffalo was pretty special," said Conklin. "The whole setting -- it was probably a little bit better of a hockey game. Even with the snow, it turned out great."

On Jan. 1, 2009, Conklin backstopped the Red Wings past the Blackhawks at Chicago's famed Wrigley Field.

"Last year, being in Wrigley, two Original Six teams, it was pretty neat," Conklin said. "Last year the ice was good. They didn't have a lot of problems with the ice. The weather was pretty reasonable. Little more physical game than the other two. Felt a lot like a regular game."

Keeping that "it's a real game" mindset is the only advice Conklin had for the Flyers and Bruins players participating in the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Boston's Fenway Park.

"The only thing that got lost maybe in the first game (Heritage Classic), because it was so new, was the fact that there were two points available," he said. "It's an NHL game, it counts on the schedule. We really saw that and felt that in the last two. At least, I did."

In his first season with the St. Louis Blues, Conklin laughed when asked if he had pushed for a trade to either the Flyers or Bruins to keep up his outdoor-hockey streak. No, he said, he'll be just as happy watching this time.

"I don't think it'll feel weird," he said. "It'll be nice to watch one."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.