CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- When Joe Sakic puts on a Colorado Avalanche jersey to play against the Detroit Red Wings alumni on Feb. 26, it will be his first time on an outdoor rink.
Sakic grew up in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, British Columbia, where winters are relatively mild and frozen ponds are pretty rare.
"It might freeze up for a couple weeks and you might horse around a little bit, but (there was) never an actual game," said Sakic, the Avalanche general manager.
The alumni game is part of the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at Coors Field where the Avalanche and Red Wings will play a regular-season game Feb. 27 (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports 2).
"It'll be great," said Sakic, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012 following a 20-season NHL career with the Quebec Nordiques and Avalanche in which he had 1,641 points (625 goals, 1,016 assists). "The real game Saturday night, I know the players are looking forward to that. Our fans are all excited about coming out to Coors Field and seeing our first outdoor game. It's exciting for the players, the city, everybody involved.
"But the bottom line is, that game, we're looking for a 'W.' We're in a playoff spot right now, teams have games in hand. As much as the guys are excited about playing in the outdoor game, once the game starts it's all about winning."
Sakic said he contacted Detroit GM Ken Holland about the possibility of playing an alumni game once the Red Wings were announced as the Avalanche's opponent.
"We were all excited when we got the outdoor game," Sakic said. "That rivalry meant so much to the players and to the teams, but to both cities as well. To get all the faces together, the two teams together, one last time … the game's not going to be as intense as it used to be, but it'll be great just to get together and maybe take a group photo and acknowledge what the two teams once had."
The Avalanche and Red Wings met five times in the Stanley Cup Playoffs from 1996-2002. Colorado won the Stanley Cup twice in that timespan (1996, 2001), Detroit won it three times (1997, 1998, 2002).
"It was just an incredible rivalry," Sakic said. "It was great to be part of that. The further you are away, and it was a long time ago, and I know I speak for myself and probably a lot of players that were part of that, I think you look back and really appreciate being part of something like that.
"Obviously it was heated, the two teams didn't like each other, but you had a lot of respect for everybody that was part of that because it was something special. Not only was there some ugly stuff, if you look up and down the roster, there were some great names, great hockey players on both teams. The pace of every one of our games, even in the regular season, it was a playoff atmosphere."
Sakic and Avalanche coach Patrick Roy, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2006, have been working out on the ice as much as possible to prepare for the alumni game.
"I think I've skated four or five times now," Sakic said. "The equipment feels comfortable now. I'll get maybe one more (practice) in next week before the game. I've realized in the last three or four skates that I'm not getting any better, I'm just getting more comfortable. It was a while since I put on equipment, maybe two years, but it all feels good now.
"We're all excited to play in the game and get through it healthy and the next morning put the equipment up in the garage. We're going to want to make sure we don't embarrass ourselves and try and put on a decent show."
Roy said he played hockey outdoors when he was 7 or 8 years old while growing up in Quebec City.
"My dad made a rule, when it got dark you had to be back home," he said. "I always broke tho
Roy, whose 551 NHL regular-season wins were the most by a goalie when he retired after the 2002-03 season (since surpassed by Martin Brodeur's 691), practiced as recently as Wednesday morning before the Avalanche and Montreal Canadiens played at Pepsi Center.
"The high play, top circle, is not a concern to me," said Roy, who won the Stanley Cup four times; twice each with the Canadiens and Avalanche. "It's the close play around the net. I guess I feel my age, I feel my weight, I feel everything. Gives me a good idea why I retired."