Chicago Blackhawks forward Dennis Rasmussen is keeping a diary of his experiences at the 2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The Blackhawks face the St. Louis Blues on Monday (1 p.m. ET; NBC, TVA Sports, SN, NHL.TV) in the 21st outdoor regular-season game and the third of four this season.
In his first installment Sunday, Rasmussen talks about his family's long tradition of playing hockey outside around Christmas in his native Sweden, and how events like the Winter Classic bring him back to that simpler time.
Playing hockey outside is very important in my family, especially around this time of year.
My cousin Jonatan, my brother Emil and I usually try to skate somewhere around Christmas, at a lake or something, and they came to visit me in Chicago for the holiday this year. So I was asking guys if there was a lake somewhere around Chicago where we could go skate on Christmas morning. We didn't find that, so we skated outside at the ribbon at Maggie Daley Park in Chicago. We also skated at our practice facility, just playing around with my brother and cousin, just having fun.
Video: CHI@STL: Rasmussen slams puck home off the rebound
I'm not quite sure how the tradition started, but we just wanted to skate when we were younger; me, my brother and my cousin. It kind of started like that, so sometime around Christmas we always try to go out and skate somewhere if we can, and we want to skate outside because that's the same feeling we had as kids. Just playing in the fresh air, no helmets, just our toques with the pompom on top and have some fun.
Usually around Christmas in my hometown of Vasteras, the weather is perfect for skating outside, right around the freezing mark. There are tennis courts all over the city and they flood them in the winter to create skating rinks so we could play as much as we wanted.
Sometimes my dad would join us playing, other cousins, friends, we would always get together Christmas morning and get a game in before you start celebrating with the family. If we couldn't do it that day, we did it the day after. But we always did it.
My brother plays goalie for Surahammars IF, a third-division pro team in Sweden, and I played a bit of a role in him choosing that position. When I started to play street hockey with my friends, my brother wanted to play with us. But he's three years younger than me, so we told him if he didn't play goalie, he couldn't play with us. So that's how he became a goalie. He regrets becoming a goalie sometimes, he would have wanted to be a forward and score goals. He's gotten mad at me a couple of times because I was the one who forced him to be a goalie. He's probably right; he was the one with more talent.
My brother and cousin didn't come to St. Louis, so we weren't able to enjoy the family skate here together. They went back home to Sweden from Chicago on Saturday because they wanted to be home for New Year's, but that's OK; we had our chance to skate together. It's such a great feeling to skate outside, the atmosphere and the air on your face. It brings back great memories.
I played in the Stadium Series game last year against the Minnesota Wild, and it's a different feeling. When you play other special games, it's just special in the beginning but then the game starts and you get into it. This game is special the whole game because you're always outside and everything is different. It brings back great memories because that's what you did when you were younger, and I can't wait to play Monday.