Cale Makar didn't play in the Colorado Avalanche's game at Coors Field in 2016--he wouldn't be drafted for another year and a half--but the former first-round pick still has a significant claim on his outdoor resume.
On Dec. 29, 2017, Makar played in the first outdoor game ever at the IIHF World Junior Championship. His Canadian team met the United States at New Era Field, home of the NFL's Buffalo Bills, in front of 44,592 fans. Though technically a home game for the U.S., the proximity to the Canadian border made for a neutral-site experience.
"It was probably 50-50, red and blue," Makar said of the fan split. "It was a really good crowd, very high-tempo. It was very cold, but the people enjoyed it."
The contest previewed Makar's knack for setting records, like he has done with the Avalanche this season.
After fielding a pass at the right circle, Makar lasered a shot into the net to break a scoreless tie in the first period of the game against USA and making him the first player in World Juniors history to score an outdoor goal.
Pretty special, right?
"Honestly that never occurred to me in the moment," said Makar, true to his humble form before crediting his teammate's pass. "From what I remember it was just a pretty lucky one, but it was just so cool to be there, to see the atmosphere."
Canada went on to lose 4-3 in a shootout in what Makar called a "muck and grind" game. The ice was a bit choppy, and the players might have been a tad stiff in the frigid conditions. Such can be the case in an outdoor bout in a snow globe setting, elements and all. Snow flied and piled up throughout the contest, and the temperature was in the single digits with the wind chill.
But Makar still enjoyed the overall experience, mainly for the raucous crowd and unique setting. It also helped that Canada went on to win out after the preliminary round and take home the gold medal, removing any sting that a prior loss to the rival Americans might have left.
"At the end of the day," Makar said, "we got what we wanted at that tournament."
Looking ahead to the Avs' game on Feb. 15 at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Makar is excited about the venue. Falcon Stadium is similar in its bowl shape to New Era Field and a similar size crowd is expected. The last crowd was vibrant, but this one might feel more a part of the action.
"I think the stadium is set up well for every fan to have a good eye on the game," said Makar, who previewed the facility this past summer with teammate Tyson Jost as part of the Avalanche's summer caravan tour. "You're not going to be too far away from the play. It can be different in some NFL fields, especially in Buffalo. Fans are so far away, so it's tough to see things. But for us, it's a little bit of a smaller stadium. It's going to be awesome, and I think it'll be a little more intimate and really fun experience for everyone there."