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Surviving AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic made easy

by Shawn P. Roarke

Ontario’s Les Stroud is the host of Survivorman, the popular survival show that airs on The Science Channel in the U.S., and The Outdoor Life Network in Canada.To learn more about Stroud and his many accomplishments, visit
There is no weather report remotely suggesting the arrival of a survival situation in the forecast for New Year’s Day in Orchard Park, N.Y., home of Ralph Wilson Stadium, the site of the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic.

In fact, the long-range forecast suggests that it could well be a perfect day for the first NHL regular-season outdoor game in the United States. It appears the host Buffalo Sabres and the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins will take the ice Tuesday afternoon (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio) with temperatures hovering in the low-30s, and there also is a 40 percent chance of accompanying snow showers.

But like the Boy Scouts, believes in being prepared for all eventualities. So reached out to survival expert Les Stroud, who hosts the wildly popular Survivorman series (OLN Canada, The Science Channel U.S., Discovery Channel International) to provide the 70,000-plus fans who will pack Ralph Wilson Stadium to capacity with some helpful hints to brave whatever surprises Mother Nature might have in store.

Stroud has survived some of the most inhospitable places the globe has to offer, including cold-weather scenarios in the Canadian Rockies, Alaska, the Canadian Boreal Forest and the remotest areas of Labrador province during the two seasons of his TV show.

Each show, he survives these harsh landscapes, alone, for seven days and nights with just the clothes on his back and a few essential props at his disposal. He documents his trials and tribulations with the 50-pound camera setup he carries with him on each adventure.

So a day in Orchard Park – even in the dead of winter – will merely be child’s play for Stroud. And he will be on hand – with his 10-year-old son – to take in the sights and sounds of this magical afternoon. A lifelong hockey fan – Stroud proudly counts himself among the Leaf faithful and still plays men’s league hockey a few times a week – Stroud would not miss the Winter Classic for anything.

Now, in his own voice, Survivorman shares with you some serious survival tips and finds a sometimes humorous application of these tips that can be used by the fans at the Winter Classic.

The first thing you always want to do in a real survival situation is assess your situation. You need to stop, calm down, look around for imminent dangers and take inventory of what you have around you that you can use to help your chances of survival. You also have to figure out just how utterly lost you are and what your chances are for surviving and for how long you can hang on under the current situations.

At the Winter Classic, you need to assess your seat location. What view do you have of the ice? Are you within yelling distance of the players’ benches? Are you in a section dominated by fans of the other team? Are you near any heat source? Are you close to the bathrooms and the concession stands?

These are all questions that you must answer in order to assure the best possible experience. For example, in a real survival situation, you might have to think about relocating if you are in danger from the elements around you – say, a rockslide, a flood or an avalanche. At the Winter Classic, if you are a Buffalo fan and you find yourself surrounded by a sea of yellow-and-black clothing (suggesting allegiance to the Penguins) in your section, it might be time to plan your means of egress.

The next thing to do in a true survival situation is to take an inventory of what you have with you that can help you survive. We are talking about things like matches, a knife, signaling devices, food and the like. These are your assets for survival and they must be managed prudently. Once you have an inventory, you can make a survival game plan.

The same goes for the Winter Classic. You have to have an inventory of the necessary tools to prosper at the game. Forget the extra blanket and the seat cushion. We know everyone will have those. Do you have a noisemaker or a sign – signaling devices – to stand out in the crowd and maybe get on TV? Do you have enough money for beer? Do you have a cell phone to capture and transmit that perfect picture of that amazing goal by your favorite player so you can send it to your buddy back home who couldn’t make the game?

In a real winter survival situation, one of the most pressing needs – if not the most pressing need – is for proper clothing. In a real cold-weather situation, you should be able to stand still or move about comfortably in your clothes, no matter the situation, and still be warm. Proper clothing is essential because it represents your first, and most vital, asset.

So you need to assess your wardrobe for the big game. Yes, those jeans might be effective at attracting members of the opposite sex; but are they too restrictive to allow for comfort throughout the Winter Classic? Will they cut off circulation, which is a major no-no, especially in cold-weather situations?

We are not dressing for fashion here, but rather functionality. It’s all about layers. To survive the cold, you layer all the way up until you are super warm. You can always take off layers when you get mad at the other team and your blood pressure rises, making you too toasty. You also need to worry about your toes to avoid frostbite, so make sure you bring along some of those foot-warming hot pockets. They really work!

Remember, too, that 80 percent of your heat escapes through your head, so make sure you have a toque bearing your team’s favorite logo perched atop your head.

Les Stroud shares some tips for surviving the cold during the NHL Winter Classic.

Shelter also is vital in a survival situation. You must shelter yourself from the elements – especially wind and precipitation. There is no sure-fire way to build a good shelter; it is all about adaptability and ingenuity. It’s about looking around and making use of what you have around you. There is no set style of shelter that works better than any other in these cases. If it is warm and dry after you build it, it is the right shelter.

So, how does this apply at the Winter Classic? Let’s say it’s really windy and the wind is cutting into your enjoyment of the show. What can you do? One thing would be to get everybody’s coat and zip all the zippers together to make a huge tarp that can serve as a tent for everyone in your row to huddle under. Again, use your head and those resources around you. Be creative.

Another thing to remember is it’s a proven fact that body-to-body contact is the best way to stave off the effects of hypothermia. In fact, in true survival situations, it is recommended that straight skin-on-skin contact is the best way to pull a person out of a hypothermic state. We’re not suggesting that anybody get naked in the stands Tuesday afternoon. Instead, just stay close to those that you are already close to, or make a new friend in the effort to stave off the cold. Who knows? Maybe the hypothermia facts can be fashioned into a good conversation opener.

Frostbite usually happens in the extremities because your body is reacting to a cooling-down situation of its core that is beyond acceptable limits. As a result, it concentrates the blood flow to the internal organs and abandons the usual process of sending blood to the extremities. Here the advice is the same as it would be in a real survival situation.

If you feel yourself getting cold, especially in the fingers, toes, ears or nose, move about. Usually I suggest simple calisthenics – jumping jacks or running in place – to raise the body temperature. At the Winter Classic, keeping warm will be easy. Jump up and down as much as possible and scream to cheer on your team. Be the best fan you can be and you will be rewarded with a safe body temperature!

In a true survival situation, the reality is that food is not very important. We can go a long time without food. You won’t start really feeling the lack of food until after about a week and it will only result in a loss of energy. That feeling gets worse after two weeks and so on, but the human body can go almost a month without food – as long as water is available.

But I understand hockey fans can’t go more than a period without sustenance of some kind. So you must have a game plan to hunt down the necessary provisions, avoiding the natural predators of the area, as well as other species – read: other hungry fans – hoping to score the same nutrients as you.

It is therefore imperative that you go on a scouting mission upon entering Ralph Wilson Stadium. Learn the location of the food sources that most appeal to you, be it nachos, hot dogs, pizza or popcorn, and mark the shortest, safest routes to reach those destinations at the appointed time. Don’t be afraid to find strength in numbers and use a pack mentality to forge your way safely to the proper concessionaire. We are talking about survival here, after all!

Finally, the true success in any real survival situation is being found safe and sound at its conclusion. In its simplest form, the way to do that is to employ the techniques I have shared to put yourself in a position to be seen and heard by any potential rescuers.

At the Winter Classic, you easily can be seen and heard by the rest of the worldwide hockey community by wearing colorful clothing – preferably in the colors of your favorite team – and making as much noise as possible. Let the world know that you are at Ralph Wilson Stadium and that you are not merely surviving the NHL Winter Classic, but rather thriving there! Be safe, have fun and I’ll see you at the game!

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