NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils center Adam Henrique remembers sitting in the stands at Yankee Stadium with then-teammates Krys Barch and Tom Kostopoulos in mid-April. They were there to catch a ballgame, but the conversation turned to a major what-if.
"We were saying how cool it would be to play a game in there one day," Henrique told NHL.com. "Sure enough, the next day they announced it."
Well, not officially, because the NHL didn't release the details about the Devils' participation in the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series until about a month later, but the news leaked into the media while Henrique and his ex-teammates were inside the ballpark in the Bronx.
As the details of the event came to light -- Jan. 26, 2014 against the New York Rangers at 12:30 p.m. ET (NBC, CBC) -- Henrique started to grow more and more intrigued.
"We weren't sure if they were serious or not," Henrique said. "Once we found out it was a sure thing we just said, 'It's going to be awesome.'
"It's not just a hockey game, it's a whole event. You come here to the arena [Prudential Center] and it's awesome, but it's routine. This will be different for us. Everybody I'm sure will have a lot of family coming in. It will be something pretty special. It will be unique to play outdoors, to play there. I've watched [the outdoor games] on TV and they're special events."
For Henrique, the Stadium Series game against the Rangers will take him back to his days skating on one of the frozen ponds nestled on his family's farm in Burford, Ontario.
On the farm, Henrique, his older brother Mike and his younger brothers Cole and Shay would run the show. They'd have friends come over and usually would have enough to play a 4-on-4 game whenever they wanted to, provided the weather cooperated.
"It was nice because it was in a bit of a gully so it wasn't too windy when you were down there," Henrique said. "We'd go down there and shovel it off. When it would snow again we would re-shovel it. We were always just praying that it would be good ice, not bumpy, that it didn't rain. It was a good five- to 10-minute walk from the house so when you were down there, you were down there for good."
The boys would play until dark. They'd lose pucks in the snow banks or occasionally one would fly into the forest. One year they left the snow blower on the ice and forgot about it. The ice melted and the snow blower drowned.
"That was a pretty good one," Henrique said, laughing.
They'd try to get to the pond as much as they could in the winter. Mike would be in charge of ice maintenance.
"We'd play for as long as we could," Henrique said. "The only thing that stunk was it would get dark early."
Henrique's father, Joe, has gone about rectifying that problem in recent years by crafting his own rink behind the barns. Spotlights have been installed so they could play all night.
Henrique, of course, doesn't get to use the family rink as often as Mike, Cole and Shay. He has Prudential Center instead.
"I miss out on it now, but actually when I was home last Christmas with my thumb injury I was able to get out there a little bit," Henrique said. "Now we have a couple of spotlights out there and can stay out there all night as long as you don't freeze, but that's the thing."
Henrique won't have unlimited access to the rink at Yankee Stadium on Jan. 26. The Devils may be able to get a practice Jan. 25, the day before they play the Rangers. But once the game is over their time in the Bronx will be too.
They play on the road against the St. Louis Blues two days later. The Rangers play the New York Islanders at Yankee Stadium on Jan. 29.
"Hopefully the ice will be better [than it was on the pond]," Henrique said. "It's going to be an experience. It's going to be exciting. The new Yankee Stadium, it's an awesome place."