Imagine the thrilling experience of a Carolina Hurricanes home game.
Imagine the painted, frozen sheet of ice that measures 200 feet in length and 85 feet in width. Imagine the dasher boards and plexiglass that surround that playing surface and help contain the unrivaled speed and skill within. Imagine the packed stands and the raucous atmosphere. Imagine the warning siren roaring, the goal horn blaring, "Raise Up" vibrating and thousands wooing.
Now, take that and shift it a couple hundred yards south to a football stadium, where you can almost triple the fans, blow the roof off and drop the puck in the great outdoors.
It will become a reality on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, when the Carolina Hurricanes host the 2021 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series™ at NC State's Carter-Finley Stadium.
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"I'm very pumped. It's going to be so fun," Andrei Svechnikov said with a big grin. "When I was young, I was always watching those games. There are so many people there. Big crowd. Hopefully it's going to be like that. It's going to be super fun. I can't wait."
"It's going to be cool," Sebastian Aho said. "I obviously haven't had that experience yet, and it's the first time here. That's awesome. I'm sure the fans will be excited, and the whole Raleigh area will be buzzing."
Video: Hurricanes to host NHL Stadium Series 2021
Svechnikov, who said he's done nothing more than simply skate outside, was so excited hearing the news on Saturday that he was already picking the brains of the players in the Canes' locker room who have played in an outdoor game.
"They said, 'It's unbelievable. You're going to be enjoying it so much,'" he said. "When you're walking to the ice … it'd be so fun. Looking around for the first time, like what's going on? It's going to be something special."
The event, which has been in the works for over two years, will certainly be something special - from the players to the coaches to the front office to the fans to the city to the state and even the region. The Canes, after all, are the first market in the Southeast to host an outdoor game.
"This is one of the NHL's premier events," President and General Manager Don Waddell said. "There have been so few teams who have been able to host these kinds of games, and for us here in the Triangle area to be able to host a game at NC State, I think is a win for everybody involved."
The outdoor game, with an opponent still to be determined, will be the NHL's 12th under the Stadium Series banner and 32nd regular-season outdoor game. Carter-Finley Stadium will be the sixth college football facility to host an NHL outdoor game.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, in a one-day market visit to Raleigh in Feb. 2019, noted Carter-Finley's "tight bowl and good sightlines."
Combine the stadium's favorable features with its proximity to PNC Arena and the ample space surrounding the property for what should be an epic tailgate experience, and you've got the ingredients for a weekend to remember in Raleigh.
"The NHL has said this might be the best stadium they've ever played in," Waddell said. "We don't think there's a bad seat. That's a very exciting thing to have a close environment where it will be more fun for our fans."
Video: Hurricanes, NC State to host 2021 Stadium Series
The Canes already boast the loudest house in the NHL. What will that noise be like in an open-air environment across the street?
"I don't doubt the Caniacs will be going crazy. It will be a loud outdoor building. I'm sure we'll hear them," Jordan Staal said. "It will be a good thing for the city. I know our fans are going to love it, and we're going to enjoy playing in front of them."
"I think it's going to be outstanding," Waddell said. "When you're bringing in an experience like this, you're going to have a lot of non-hockey people that are going to come out and experience this. What we're hoping is that this will convert people to being fans of the hockey club."
The Canes have 11 players on their roster who have participated* in an NHL outdoor game. Jake Gardiner played in three with Toronto - the 2014 Winter Classic, the 2017 Centennial Classic and the 2018 Stadium Series. Staal played in two with Pittsburgh, including the inaugural Winter Classic in 2008.
(*James Reimer served as the back-up goaltender for Toronto in the 2014 Winter Classic. With Detroit, Petr Mrazek started and won the 2016 Stadium Series and served as the back-up for both the 2014 Winter Classic and the 2017 Centennial Classic.)
In addition to playing in two outdoor games in Finland, Teuvo Teravainen suited up in another with Trevor van Riemsdyk and the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2016 Stadium Series against Nino Niederreiter, Erik Haula and the Minnesota Wild. Haula finished with a goal and two assists, while Niederreiter tallied a goal and an assist in the Wild's 6-1 win.
"Turbo had a tough time playing against us," Niederreiter chirped.
"I had a good game," Teravainen countered.
"Was that the same game? That's awesome," Aho laughed, hearing about the outcome.
The experience, though, was most memorable.
"It was unreal. It was sick," Niederreiter said.
"It's pretty exciting to play outside," Teravainen agreed. "A lot of fans. It's a special day."
It will have been 10 years since Staal last played an NHL game outside.
"It's an exciting game for the players as well as everyone else involved. It's a big show," he said. "It hits all the nerves of what hockey's all about. That's the exciting part and what everyone dreams of as a kid. To be able to play in one of those is a really neat experience. I know a lot of guys are excited about it."
The countdown has begun. The puck drops at Carter-Finley Stadium in just over a year.
"The fans are so excited that you get the same feeling. It's pretty unique," Aho said. "It's going to be awesome."
"I can't wait," Svechnikov reiterated. "It's going to be super exciting."