Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jared McCann is keeping a diary of his experiences at the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series, which will be played at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The Penguins play the host Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN360, SN1, TVAS2) in a game ripe with implications on the race for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In his first installment following practice on Friday, McCann writes about his memories as a young fan of the first Winter Classic, when current teammate Sidney Crosby scored the shootout-winning goal against the Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium, his own surprising journey to this game after a trade to the Penguins, along with Nick Bjugstad, on Feb. 1 and how he is approaching his first outdoor game.
This is my first outdoor game and it is pretty exciting out there today.
Growing up, I remember watching Sidney Crosby score on Sabres goalie Ryan Miller in that shootout in the first one in Buffalo; it was like a blizzard outside. Remember that?
Growing up as a kid, you always want to play outdoors with your buddies and all that. To do it in a professional hockey game is pretty cool, pretty awesome.
When I was a kid on our farm in Ontario, we didn't have a pond, but we had a creek in the backyard and that would freeze over every once in a while. But it was pretty deep, so you didn't want to go on it too often. We did have a big piece of land and it was kind of like a funnel, so all the water would drain into one spot and that would freeze. I remember me and my buddies from back home would go out there every once in a while and it was really, really cool. I got buddies from back home right now that if I texted them, they would remember that.
I can't believe I'm playing in this game. I never expected it when the season started. Both Nick Bjugstad and I were with the Panthers in South Florida at the start of the season and the furthest from outdoor ice, basically. To just have this opportunity is amazing. Not a lot of guys can say they have played in an outdoor game or a Stadium Series game or whatever. I'm just trying to enjoy it all.
Today for practice was awesome. You don't even feel cold. You get out there and you are just so excited. You get to go out and play hockey outside and it is hard to explain how awesome it is. I asked a couple of guys about playing outdoors and if there was anything I needed to know. Nick played in a couple when he was in Minnesota, one I think where it was minus-50 or something like. I was like, "Oh man, I don't know how I would handle that."
As far as tomorrow, I think the game itself is what I am most looking forward to. When we stepped out there today, there was nobody in the stands, but it was so open and so big. Tomorrow it will be filled with people and I'm sure the atmosphere will be wild.
I have family coming into town tomorrow -- my sister and her boyfriend -- and I'm excited for them to be a part of it too, for sure.
When I heard about the game, it reminded me of this movie when I was a kid that I watched, "Invincible." Mark Wahlberg played Vince Papale from the Philadelphia Eagles and I remembered that and that is how I knew we were playing here.
That's pretty awesome.
The game is the Battle of Pennsylvania and I already know how important that is. We've played them once since I got here after the trade and I have a good idea of what it is all about. I'm excited. It's going to be an emotional game for sure.
There's no doubt going to be some stuff happening. We have to handle it, stay focused on the game and play well.
It's a rebound game for us. We know we need to be better and we are going to show it tomorrow. With all the distractions that go with an outdoor game that is going to be harder, but we just have to stay focused. We need the two points. Obviously, we are battling to be in a playoff spot. We're going to come to play for sure. I can't wait!