Growing up in Herning, Denmark, New York Islanders center Frans Nielsen said it never really got cold enough for him and his friends to skate outdoors. On those rare occasions, he said, it felt like they had won the lottery.
He's holding another winning ticket, with the prize being a date for him and his team with the New York Rangers at Yankee Stadium on Jan. 29, 2014, as part of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.
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"It's awesome," Nielsen told NHL.com. "It's going to be just like it was the first [Stanley Cup] Playoff game, something you'll always remember. It's going to be special. I was very excited when I heard the news [that they'd be playing outside]. Should be fun."
Nielsen said he didn't have the same outdoor hockey experience that NHL players who grew up in Canada or the northern parts of the United States did. The rare times it was cold enough for the local ponds to freeze, Nielsen said he and his friends did their best to treasure every second of the experience.
"The winters didn't get too rough, so it didn't get cold enough for the lakes [to freeze] to consistently [skate outside in the winter," he said. "I've been skating outdoors but not like ice in Canada or Minnesota. Wasn't like that.
"It would definitely be fun. You'd be out there all day and skate around when you had the chance."
Nielsen have another chance to go outside in late January. As much as a thrill as it will be to skate under the open sky, the venue he and his teammates will be playing in will make the day just as memorable.
"I go there a lot, once or twice every summer to watch a game," Nielsen said of Yankee Stadium. "You can feel there's something special there. Lots of history. You compare it to a lot of big soccer stadiums back in Europe. It's a special place and it's going to be fun to play there."