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Outdoor hockey familiar to Sabres, Pens

by Phil Coffey

Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller has
experience playing outdoors as a member of
the Michigan State Spartans back in 2001.
The countdown is on. In just six days, the Buffalo Sabres are scheduled to host the Pittsburgh Penguins in the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic, Tuesday, January 1 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo (1 p.m., ET, NBC, CBC, RDS and NHL Radio).

The first NHL outdoor regular-season game to be staged in the United States is generating a wide range of storylines, such as the Buffalo weather, the experience of playing in front of 70,000-plus fans, childhood memories of playing outdoors and the quest for any edge that will secure two valuable standings points. Following is a collection of recent comments from Sabres and Penguins players as they discuss the most-anticipated game of the season.

Buffalo Sabres

"I think that cold does a lot more to you than you think. Get one of those survival books, figure out what those guys do to stay alive in the wild, I guess. You can get dehydrated very quickly in the wind and the cold, just the same way you can as if it's hot out. So you have to be aware of that, try and stay as warm as possible, get the core temperature up."

-- Sabres G Ryan Miller, Dec. 17, 2007. Miller suited up for Michigan State in the 2001 'Cold War' outdoor game vs. the University of Michigan at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich.


"I've only ever played pick-up and shinny outside. No organized stuff, and no body checks for sure."

-- Sabres D Brian Campbell, Dec. 14, 2007.


"We played outdoors all the time when I was a kid. It was fun. We didn't even know what it was like to play indoors. When you were growing up in Moscow, you always played outdoors."

-- Sabres RW Maxim Afinogenov, Dec. 12, 2007.


"It's where you start. You're with your friends, you're a young kid. It's something to do during the wintertime. You want to get home from school and get back on the outdoor rinks. Growing up, I had quite a few opportunities to play on ponds and I had an outdoor rink myself. So it's something I've been doing my whole life up until now. So hopefully I'll get another chance to go out and play the game the way it's meant to be played."

--Sabres RW and Milwaukee native Drew Stafford, Dec. 24, 2007.


"My dad built me a rink in my backyard growing up. He got up early in the morning to make sure it was frozen and put the work in for me, and I was able to go out and play outside. I've always enjoyed skating outside ... The weather could be a factor. There's no telling what could happen in Buffalo. There could be two feet of snow or it could be 55°."

-- Sabres C and Syracuse native Tim Connolly, Dec. 24, 2007.

Pittsburgh Penguins

"We all had to wear toques under our helmets, it was that cold. It was a game where you would rather be sitting on the bench than playing because we had heaters at our bench. It was the only game I've ever been in when guys didn't mind being bench warmers! And, no one was complaining about a lack of ice time. On that day, it was not a bad thing to be sitting."

-- Penguins RW Georges Laraque, Dec. 13, 2007, recalling the sub-zero conditions in the 2003 Heritage Classic.


“I’m sure I’ll be asleep before midnight strikes on New Year’s Eve. When I get prepared to play an afternoon game outdoors in front of 75,000 people, it’s a little different than lying on the couch and watching a few bowl games.”

-- Penguins D Ryan Whitney, Dec. 17, 2007.


"The wind. I don't know how you prepare for it, but it's something that you kind of maybe expect. Some periods the wind would be behind you and you'd feel like you were flying. The next period you're changing ends and you're skating right into it, feels like you're in quicksand."

-- Penguins RW Adam Hall, Dec. 17, 2007. Hall suited up for Michigan State in the 2001 'Cold War' outdoor game vs. the University of Michigan at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich.


"Back home in Saskatoon, we were lucky enough to have outdoor rinks. I got to play outside a lot as a kid, at the park down the street from me, playing outside until the lights kicked us off the ice. They'd shut off and it was time to go home."

-- Penguins RW Colby Armstrong, Dec. 21, 2007.


"The first thing that comes to mind is just old-time hockey. I think you look at the rinks. It all started outside. For me to be in that situation, it is going to be a great honor. Something fun that only happens once in a lifetime."

-- Penguins LW Ryan Malone, Dec. 21, 2007.

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