Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ian Cole is playing in his first NHL outdoor game, the 2017 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series, against the Philadelphia Flyers at Heinz Field on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports 2, NHL.TV). Cole, 28, has 19 points (four goals, 15 assists) in 59 games this season. In the first entry of his Stadium Series diary, Cole talks about the Penguins' practice, which took place on a sunny, 78-degree afternoon at Heinz Field on Friday. He also discusses the arrival of defenseman Ron Hainsey from the Carolina Hurricanes in a trade Thursday and the importance of this game in the tight Metropolitan Division race.
PITTSBURGH -- This is my first outdoor game, period, as a legitimate hockey player.
I played outdoors growing up in Ann Arbor, but not as a college and/or professional hockey player. It was certainly a really cool environment, something special. But it was certainly very hot, even when the sun went down. Those breezes that blew out there were certainly welcome because it was so hot. It wasn't the hardest practice out there, but you were still overheating.
I know the weather will be different tomorrow, but that is the one thing I have learned in my year and a half out here, the temperature fluctuates quite as bit. The change in weather will be welcomed for sure.
The ice was OK, the puck was moving well and it didn't stick. Overall, it was pretty good out there for the conditions.
There's a definitely a balance when you do a game like this. Not only is it a really cool setting and a moment that you want to cherish in having an outdoor game because they are so few and far between, but at the same time, it is two points in a very hotly contested Metropolitan Division where if you lose one game or two games, someone is catching you from behind. It's an opportunity to get two points and that is something we can't lose sight of amidst all of the theatrics out there.
The family skate after practice was great. I had my parents, Doug and Connie, my sister, MacKinzie, my wife, Jordan, who were all out there. Everyone was not really ripping around, but we were out there having fun. They all can skate -- they're all pretty good skaters actually -- but you don't want to test the ice too much when it is soft.
It was great to be out there, seeing everybody skating around. Seeing the kids of the guys on our team flying around. Those Matt Cullen boys are pretty good. Trevor Daley Jr., he's got some wheels on him.
It was the first practice for Ron Hainsey. Talk about being thrown right in the fire in probably the most media-covered game of the year, hopefully until the Stanley Cup Final, I guess. He's really be tossed into the fire, but he's been around for a while. He's a professional, has handled it very well and he's ready to play tomorrow.
It wasn't necessarily a top-speed practice, but even to get out there and get a feel for the ice, for how the boards respond; even that is beneficial just because we won't have a pre-game skate on it, so we won't have an idea of it in the morning.
It's a little weird in the sense that the boards are so far from the seats. However, the rink is still the same, the boards are still the same and everything inside the boards is the same. As far as everything outside the boards, hopefully we're not paying attention to that because you can get easily distracted.
Growing up and through high school and college, I thought the outdoor game was the coolest thing going and I thought it was very exciting that it might be something I could be a part of. I'm very lucky that my opportunity finally came seven or eight years into my professional career to play in a game like this. I'm just very excited to be out here with these guys.