The 2019 Bridgestone Winter Classic at grand Notre Dame Stadium is finally here for the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins, but not before some more laughs, special family time, and a particularly fashionable entrance.
In the third episode of the three-part "Road to the NHL Winter Classic," which premieres Sunday on NBCSN at 11:30 p.m. ET, the teams arrive in South Bend, Indiana, for all the pomp and circumstance around what is anything but just another regular-season game.
Even though several players on both teams have played in a Winter Classic before, the excitement among them is obvious.
"You see the Winter Classic every year and it doesn't get old," said Bruins defenseman Torey Krug, who gets his first glimpse of Touchdown Jesus and takes a peek in the Blackhawks locker room. "Playing in different venues, different parts of the country, just all unique places that have a different history of their own, so it's a pretty special event to take part in."
Video: Rask shows off his custom Winter Classic mask
As Krug and teammates Kevan Miller and Tuukka Rask walk through the tunnel and onto the field for the first time, they're a bit taken aback by the level of brightness on a sunny day and laugh as they discuss how to deal with potentially pleasant weather.
The scheduled outdoor practice is canceled because of rain, and both teams make the most of their time on indoor ice. The Blackhawks spend some quality time with the Blackhawks Warriors, a team of disabled military veterans, and the experience proves powerful for everyone involved.
Boston holds a family skate and Krug's nephew declares his allegiance, not to his uncle, but to Bruins forward Brad Marchand.
On game day, the Bruins put on their New Year's best for the big game. They go with a Peeky Blinders-inspired look, which Zdeno Chara says is just his style.
Video: Watch Keith, Seabrook kids after Blackhawks practice
The all-access view gives a good look at Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton, who has only been on the job since November, and his style as he urges his players not to get frustrated.
In the end, the Bruins win and Patrice Bergeron, who has just returned from injury along with Chara, congratulates his teammates on the win and encourages them all to have fun on the way back to Boston.
"You try to take in every minute of the whole thing and you hope that you can remember it all," Marchand said. "But the excitement on the guys' faces after the win in the room, those are the things you're going to remember."