Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell has become one of the team's gurus when it comes to advising teammates on how to prepare for the 2009 NHL Winter Classic against the Detroit Red Wings, which will be held Jan. 1 at Wrigley Field.
Campbell is the only player expected to play in this year's outdoor game who played in last year's Winter Classic between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Campbell scored the Sabres' lone goal in the 2-1 shootout loss to the Penguins in front of an NHL-record crowd of 71,217.
"The guys are asking what they should wear and I told them I didn't wear anything different from what I normally wear and I was fine," Campbell said. "Mostly, it's a wait-and-see situation. When the snow starts landing on your visor, you adapt and move on.
"Snow, like we had in Buffalo, is a huge dilemma for your team. With the snow on the ice we couldn't take a slap shot and get it all the way down the ice. Both teams had to play with those conditions; that was the fun part about it. But you just couldn't make plays as good as you would like. Sometimes it was off the boards and out, a lot of instances. On their first goal, one of our guys tried to pass the puck and it didn't go as far as he thought it would and kind of stopped.
"The snow came down, but we had fun with it. The wind wasn't a factor. I think this year the ice conditions will be better because the NHL has their own system now. They have a long time to get into Wrigley Field and they've started on the surface. Hopefully the weather cooperates."
Campbell said the Sabres didn't have a lot of time to be awed by their surroundings. They were down 1-0 before most of the crowd sat down.
"It was rough to get scored on in the first minute, but I thought we just need to be patient," he said. "Then I scored a goal and I was thinking, 'This is the best game in the world!'
"(Buffalo coach) Lindy Ruff did a good job with us, telling us he wanted us to enjoy the day and have fun with it. He said we wouldn't get many opportunities to do this again. After the game, even though we lost, he said this is one of the best days we will ever have and thanked us for being so good about it. We thank the NHL for giving us the opportunity to play that game in Buffalo."
Campbell thinks the outdoor-game concept is a great one. This will be the second regular-season outdoor game played in the United States and third in NHL history. Edmonton hosted Montreal in the Heritage Classic on Nov. 22, 2003. The Canadiens won that one, 4-3.
"It's going to be very exciting for a lot of the guys," Campbell said. "In Buffalo we were excited but it didn't get going (for us) until a week before. You have so many games on your schedule that you can't be looking ahead. There're a lot of distractions with having to get tickets, and family and friends coming in. I know it's going to be a thrill walking out there with everybody.
"If you've been lucky enough to go to a Cubs game, the atmosphere will be like playoff games, with the tailgating and the bars and restaurants. It's a huge event for the whole NHL. It's going to be great to be feeling that excitement in January, instead of having to wait for May or June."
Author: John McGourty | NHL.com Staff Writer