LOS ANGELES -- From the moment the NHL announced Dodger Stadium as one of the sites for the inaugural 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series, Luc Robitaille has tried to imagine what would take place.
Robitaille invited 30 or so of his of his friends to Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night to give the ice its first game action, an hour-long shinny session featuring Hollywood celebrities and former NHL players.
"We got a good group of friends together," Robitaille said after the spirited game was over. "I'm glad all these guys got to enjoy it and feel it because it is certainly something that is going to be memorable for a long time.
"I can't wait to see Saturday, it's going to be absolutely amazing with the crowd here. It's going to be something so special. We just have to take a few minutes to enjoy it."
Wednesday was designed for just that.
Dan Craig, the NHL's Senior Director of Facilities Operations, declared the ice ready for game action Wednesday afternoon. After the media spent 30 minutes or so circling the surface, Robitaille and his gang took over, streaming onto the ice in vintage uniforms from the Kings and the Anaheim Ducks, the two teams that will face off Saturday (9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).
It was a parade of stars taking the ice: Robitaille himself, actor Cuba Gooding Jr., actor David Boreanz all took part, as did retired NHL defensemen Rob Blake, Stephane Quintal and Sean O'Donnell. E! anchor Ken Baker manned the goal for the Ducks team.
"Literally the first time I hit the ice and looked up and then looked across the ice and saw Luc Robitaille and Rob Blake," Gooding Jr. said when asked about his favorite memory of the night. "All those guys that played in the NHL and just to be on the ice with them is something that I will remember for the rest of my life."
He'll also remember the abject fear he felt when he was handed a No. 99 Kings jersey. He refused the offer, demanding another jersey and settling on No. 9.
"I will never deface the No. 99," he said, referencing the retired number of Wayne Gretzky, who played for the Kings from 1988-96. "He is the Great One. I can't compete with that. You wouldn't want to see 99 skating the way I was skating out here today."
Boreanz, meanwhile, was more amazed by the setting than the stars
"Just being at a baseball stadium playing hockey; you're on top of the grass and playing with a great group of guys," the actor said. "It's pretty phenomenal to do something like this. We are kind of fortunate to come out and break the ice a little bit before the big guys come out on Saturday. The biggest moment was just taking the ice and skating around and seeing the stands of Dodger Stadium and the palm trees."
For Quintal, it was the weather. The game was played on a perfect Southern California night as temperatures dipped into the low 60s and a slight breeze cooled things even more. It was a far different climate than the one Quintal encountered the last time he played out of doors
Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. was among the many celebrities who played an hour-long shinny session at Dodger Stadium to give the ice its first game action. (Photo: Jeff Vinnick/NHLI)
"I haven't played outdoors in a while; I played in the first Heritage [Classic] game in Edmonton and that was the coldest game ever, so this was a lot warmer tonight," Quintal said.
The first Heritage Classic was held in November 2003 in Edmonton; temperatures that night dipped as low as minus-22 Fahrenheit with the wind chill.
Baker, however may have had the most unique take of all on the game, opting to look philosophically at the bigger picture that delivered such a diverse group of stars onto the an pop-up ice rink in the middle of the iconic baseball stadium in the city of Los Angeles.
"I had a smile on my face the whole day long," he said. "As soon as I walked in, it's just been the whole experience that I have been trying to soak up. It's just very surreal and beautiful.
"I'm out here and I'm a transport from Buffalo, N.Y. and my kids play hockey and just seeing the definition of hockey being modified and evolved in the making and we are a part of it. We are redefining hockey by doing events like this, and it is pretty amazing."