NEWARK, N.J. -- As hard as Los Angeles Kings center Mike Richards tries to visualize what the scene will look like at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 25 for the first installment of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series, he realizes there's simply nothing he's ever been a part of that would even compare.
Seriously, how can a guy who grew up in Kenora, Ontario, where a typical January consists of single-digit (Fahrenheit) temperatures and snow on more than half the days, visualize what an outdoor hockey game will be like under a Southern California sky, amid swaying palm trees and attended by people wearing board shorts and Reefs?
"This is almost going to be like playing hockey outside in the summertime in Kenora because that's almost what the temperature would be," Richards told NHL.com. "Maybe a little bit cooler. It'll be unique."
Richards got the NHL's outdoor experience on Jan. 1, 2010, as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers when they visited the Boston Bruins in the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park. The atmosphere that day brought him back to his youth in Kenora, playing outside with snow falling, feeling the cold air in his lungs, seeing his breath and layering up to stay warm.
None of that will be, or at least should be, present when Richards goes back outdoors for the Kings' game against the Anaheim Ducks at Dodger Stadium. That's what makes the upcoming event so intriguing to Richards.
He recalls his excitement and anticipation leading up to the Winter Classic four years ago. Richards said that excitement and anticipation is amped up even more as he thinks about the game at Dodger Stadium.
"It's going to be similar atmosphere-wise [to the Winter Classic in Boston], with the crowd and stuff, but visually it's going to be completely different," Richard said. "Having palm trees and sand like a beach as we're walking out, it's going to be pretty cool.
"I'm excited to see how they set everything up, because in Boston, they had snow piles and ice, and at some point in the beginning of the game or the end of the game, there was snow falling, but it's going to be different in L.A. It's going to be a different scene from every Winter Classic game I've seen."
While he's right about the temperature and scenery, Richards still expects the feeling of being on the ice and playing in the game to be the same as in Boston. He called the Winter Classic one of the highlights of his career even though the Flyers lost the game in overtime, 2-1.
Richards couldn't remember who scored the goal for the Flyers that day -- it was Danny Syvret -- but he vividly recalls the atmosphere.
"I think it was just warm-ups, when I was first out there and stretching at center ice, just taking it all in and looking around," Richards said. "I remember Shawn Thornton skating by with a big smile on his face. 'It never gets better than this,' he says over to me. I just sat there and thought about that for a second, looking around. That was awesome.
"That two minutes that you sit at the red line to stretch and just try to take it all in, that was probably the coolest thing."
Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Senior Writer