Ty Conklin has played goal in 206 NHL games, not a huge number. But, when it comes to outdoor experience, nobody is more experienced.
Now the backup to Jimmy Howard in Detroit, Conklin is best known for the two Winter Classics in which he played -- and won. In the first Winter Classic, in 2008, he led Pittsburgh to a shootout victory against Buffalo. The next year, he was the winning goalie in a 6-4 decision again Chicago. Those games came after he was the starting goalie for Edmonton in the 2003 Heritage Classic, the League's first regular-season outdoor game.
"It is a fun day, so you have to try to go out and enjoy it. There's no point in getting all wound up and worrying about it. The whole point of the game is to have fun." -- Three-time outdoor game veteran Ty Conklin on playing outside
So I couldn't think of anyone better to track down on the eve of the fifth-annual outdoor showcase to lend insight into what this year's Classic may look like from the crease.
The key to the game, which has played in a variety of conditions -- win, snow, rain, brutal cold and bright sunlight -- is to forget everything and "just go out and have fun."
"It is a fun day, so you have to try to go out and enjoy it," the 35-year-old Conklin says. "There's no point in getting all wound up and worrying about it. The whole point of the game is to have fun."
Conklin confesses, however, that playing outside does pose unique challenges.
First off, Conklin says brighter is not better.
"My two games were pretty cloudy, so it wasn't an issue, but at Wrigley we practiced on a nice and sunny day, and it was pretty hard to pick up the puck where the bright spots where sun was shining on the ice. Luckily, my games were both semi-overcast."
And luckily for the goalies in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, cloudy skies are in the Philly forecast for Jan. 2.
Conklin also says that the 40-degree weather expected this year is a godsend.
In the 2003 Heritage game in Edmonton, the minus-22 degrees (Fahrenheit) with a wind chill was "really cold."
Conklin remembers changing into gloves that were being heated on the bench during commercial breaks.
"I usually sweat a lot, but that day I didn't sweat at all and was dry. I don't like being dry in my gear and that affected me."
Of his three NHL outdoor appearances, Conklin says the infamous "Ice Bowl" game in Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium, memorable for its snow flurries and temperatures hovering around 30 degrees, was the most ideal weather-wise.
"The guys had to battle with the snow coming down, which works in my favor. The worse the ice, the better it is for goalies. That's a given." -- Conklin recalls the first-ever NHL Winter Classic in Buffalo
"The temperature was perfect, so the ice wasn't too soft or too brittle. That was an issue in Edmonton. It was so cold the ice was breaking off in big chunks."
Conklin, who out-dueled Ryan Miller in a shootout that day in Buffalo, credits "a thin layer of snow" on the ice for slowing down things enough to give him an advantage on shooters.
"The guys had to battle with the snow coming down, which works in my favor," he said. "The worse the ice, the better it is for goalies. That's a given."
Although Conklin feels "lucky" to have his place in NHL outdoor history, that doesn't necessarily mean that the veteran netminder, whose Red Wings have Jan. 2 off, will be glued to the television like the rest of us.
"I don't know if I will be watching," he admits with a chuckle. "If the wife and kids let me, I might. I don't make the rules on the days off."