Three Calgary Flames know all about playing a big game in the outdoors. Mike Cammalleri, Eric Nystrom and David Moss all participated in the University of Michigan and Michigan State game staged before 74,000 people in 2001.
The night before the game the University of Michigan Wolverines arrived at the rival Spartan Stadium and well, things didn't look all that promising. There was rain, the ice was not in good shape. They practised indoors. Then, on the day of the game, at the morning skate, it was windy and hailing.
"The morning of the game it was so cold it started to hail on us. It was really windy. So windy that it would blow your stick out of your hands," said Nystrom.
But, by the time was puck was dropped that evening, all was well with the weather.
"It couldn't have been better at game time. We arrived the night before and there was some rain. The ice was all potted up with the rain and it was a mess," said Cammalleri, who scored two goals in the game, which ended in a 3-3 tie.
"The next day it was perfect. The temperature was perfect, the snow was minimal. I remember the ice was so good we were saying it was the best we had ever skated on. It was to the point where we were trying to take something off our passes because it was gliding so well."
The crowd is listed as a world record for attendance at a hockey game .Officially, there were 74,554 spectators That total broke the previous world attendance record for a hockey game set in 1957 when Sweden played the Soviet Union outdoors in Moscow for the gold medal at the world championships.
"It was a special effect. The rink was a lot smaller than the field so the fans didn't start for 20 or 30 yards from the boards. It had the feel of a pond hockey game with nobody watching. Then you would look up and here roars from 75,000 people," said Cammalleri."It was pretty unique."
And oh, it was loud.
"When they announced the starting line-ups they booed and it echoed for like 10 minutes. When they scored it was like nothing you have ever heard. With 75,000 people, it gets pretty crazy in there. They had about 70,000 people. We had about 5,000," said Nystrom. "I think it is current world record so it was pretty neat."
The game was Nystrom's first for the Wolverines and one he is not likely to forget.
"It was a big life experience. It was my first game ever in college," recalled Nystrom. "It was our first game of the year against our biggest rival. It's one of the top three memories I have. There's World Juniors, going to the Frozen Four, the Stanley Cup playoffs, Game 7. But this ranks up there, too."
The cold, the rain, the hail didn't matter. The experience turned out to be a great one.
"You just had to wear extra layers under your gear and warm-up between periods," said Moss.
The National Hockey League staged the outdoor classic in Chicago on Thursday at Wrigley Field. Last season the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres played outdoors.