DALLAS -- Joe Pavelski remembers taking that first step onto the ice, looking up and seeing more than 70,000 people at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, when, as a forward with the San Jose Sharks, he played in the 2015 NHL Stadium Series against the Los Angeles Kings.
"It was awesome," Pavelski, now with the Dallas Stars, said of that 2-1 loss to the Kings on Feb. 21, 2015. "I played [an outdoor game] in college at Lambeau Field (in Green Bay, while at the University of Wisconsin), and then to play that one in the Bay Area there, it was pretty cool. It's always fun leading up to it, but when we got out there, you saw how many fans showed up and you see the size of it all. I don't know how the view is from the top, but from down on the ice, it's a cool experience."
Pavelski is one of a few Stars who knows what it's like to be part of an NHL outdoor game. Many others will have their first experience when the Stars host the Nashville Predators at the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas on Jan. 1 (2 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS). It's the southern-most location for any signature NHL outdoor game.
Video: '20 Winter Classic at Cotton Bowl Stadium time-lapse
Forwards Andrew Cogliano and Corey Perry had their outdoor opportunity while with the Anaheim Ducks, who defeated the Kings 3-0 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Jan. 25, 2014. It was the first of four NHL Stadium Series games that season.
"It was probably one of the best experiences I've had," said Cogliano, who scored an empty-net goal in that game. "Playing outdoors, the weather was just phenomenal. Dodger Stadium, you warm up before the game in the outfield and it was pretty cool. The weather helped, you know? Walking out and there's palm trees and it's beautiful weather at night. But I think it's a good experience for everyone, your whole family. It's just a cool thing that you get to be a part of, really."
The temperature at puck drop for the Ducks-Kings game in 2014 was 63 degrees Fahrenheit; it was 57.4 degrees at the Kings-Sharks game in 2015. According to weather.com, the forecast for Jan. 1 in Dallas is a high of 60 degrees with a 40 percent chance of rain.
Stars general manager Jim Nill faced chillier conditions 10 years ago. Nill was assistant GM for the Detroit Red Wings when they defeated the host Chicago Blackhawks 6-4 at Wrigley Field on Jan. 1, 2009 in the League's second Winter Classic. It was 32 degrees with 18 mph winds that day, but Nill said the experience was tremendous.
"It's the whole thing," Nill said. "The game's the No. 1 attraction, but it's the whole event. It's the players going out with their families skating on the ice in this big stadium. It's the fans in Chicago in an historic ballpark. I still remember sitting in the stands, they have those rooftops, you could see people sitting there and thinking, 'Wow, this is special.' When you get in these kinds of iconic stadiums, it's just a different event."
The Stars will enjoy everything that goes with the Winter Classic. And given their fight for a spot in the Western Conference Playoffs and their Central Division rivalry with Nashville -- the Stars eliminated the Predators in six games in the Western Conference Final of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in April -- it's not going to be hard to get ready for the game.
"Sometimes you wish you were playing someone else, but that makes the point of it, to have a rivalry game in a setting like that," Cogliano said. "I think it's a good experience for everyone. I feel like hockey is all about experiences, and you want to have the most possible."