NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features Los Angeles Kings forward Alex Iafallo:
Alex Iafallo never envisioned playing an NHL game in the great outdoors.
He has just one wish knowing he'll get that chance when the Los Angeles Kings play against the Colorado Avalanche in the Navy Federal Credit Union 2020 NHL Stadium Series at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN360, TVAS2).
"I hope it snows," the 26-year-old forward said. "I never even played an outdoor game in college, so this will be my first one. I'm excited to just be a part of the whole venue and my mother, father and sister will be there, too. To have them experience it with me for the first time is going to be sweet."
Iafallo played four seasons at the University of Minnesota Duluth before the Kings signed him to a two-year entry-level contract in April 2017. Passed over in the NHL Draft on three occasions, Iafallo ranks second on the Kings with 32 points (15 goals, 17 assists) in 57 games this season.
He was fueled by the disappointment of never hearing his name called at the NHL Draft.
"You see all your friends getting drafted and you're proud of them but at the same time, you want to make your dream happen," Iafallo said. "Over the summers in college, I'd go to development camps for certain teams and come back and work on stuff. It just gave me motivation each season whether it was summer or during college to work harder and make the dream happen."
Video: LAK@NYI: Iafallo sends puck through Greiss' five-hole
The outdoor game will be held on the campus of the United States Air Force Academy, a football stadium with an elevation 6,621 feet above sea level. Iafallo has some experience playing at that altitude during his collegiate years from 2013-17.
"I've been in that area, drove through it a few times and used to snowboard in Colorado; it's awesome," said Iafallo, who also played hockey games there. "There's mountains all around you, it's a beautiful, picturesque area. I can't snowboard anymore, but just the whole atmosphere around there is pretty cool."
Here are Five Questions with … Alex Iafallo:
As a player at Minnesota Duluth, you had games against Colorado College and the University of Denver. How were you able to handle playing hockey in that thin air, at that altitude?
"Well, it's definitely different. But [the Kings] have a practice the day before (on Friday), so it'll be good to get that practice in and get acclimated. I think after you get acclimated, you're fine. But I also think everybody's different. I think the key to the altitude change is to have short shifts, at least for the start and just make sure you're breathing right. I know it sounds dumb, but just staying calm in some parts of the game is going to help elongate your endurance."
Did you play a lot of outdoor hockey as a youngster in your yard back home in Eden, New York?
"My dad actually built a cement pad when I was younger, with some boards. We played roller hockey in the summer and then he changed it over to ice in the winter. All my friends would come over and we played hockey all night. My sister was out there with us, too. We were always out there, especially in summers when there was a lot of roller hockey back East. My dad installed these little lights above the rink. We flipped the switch to turn them on after dusk and it was great, and it made no difference how cold it was or how much is snowed. We probably played more at night than at any other time."
Video: 2020 Stadium Series at Falcon Stadium time-lapse
Do you feel this game has been circled on the calendar for quite some time, particularly with the type of season the Kings have endured?
"Yes, for sure. A lot of us have never played in an outdoor game before so it'll give us a boost and add a little more fun back into the season. We're excited for it. I know we got a couple of games before this one but it's going to be fun and a great challenge. Having the opportunity to play an opponent like the Avalanche in their territory is going to make the experience even better for us."
Will it be special to visit the Air Force Academy to not only play a hockey game but learn about the history of the campus?
"It's going to be sweet. During my time in college we never played those guys, so I've never been on the campus before so it should be a great experience. There's a lot of history there so that's going to be cool as well. I'm really looking forward to touring the campus and maybe meeting and thanking some of the special people who serve our country. As an American, it doesn't get any better."
The Kings (19-33-5) are last in the Western Conference, but you are experiencing your best NHL season. How have you been able to handle the adversity?
"Look, anything can happen really. Our team is just focused on building and working hard every day, trying to get better, and learn from our mistakes. We're obviously frustrated because we want to win every game that we can. We just have to keep working at it and sticking with it, making sure we're keeping a positive mindset any way we can."
Video: Alex Iafallo discusses strong third season with Kings