For the third time in franchise history the Penguins played a game without a roof.
Pittsburgh squared off against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the final game of the NHL’s Stadium Series at historic Soldier Field. Unfortunately it was the hometown Hawks that came away with the 5-1 victory.
But as expected, the event was bigger than a game. It was a spectacle.
The scene was rather reminiscent of the Penguins’ first outdoor game, the inaugural Winter Classic in Buffalo on Jan. 1, 2008. A hockey rink constructed in the middle of an NFL stadium. Cold air escaping the mouths of players. And the snow fell.
And fell. And fell.
Soldier Field transformed into a snow globe winter wonderland. The players walked down the long runways with fireworks and fire blazing alongside of them and 62,921 fans screaming.
“The setting coming out was pretty amazing,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “The snow coming down, it was an awesome setting. … It was a great show. I’m sure it looked good from everyone’s vantage point.”
While the snow provided a romantic aesthetic, it did hinder the action on the ice. The snow slowed down the Penguins speed game. It also slowed the puck, hurting Pittsburgh’s puck movement and breakouts.
The ice crew kept themselves busy, constantly shoveling the ice surface clear. But conditions weren’t the reason for the final result.
“It was snowy and it was like that for both teams,” Crosby said. “There were times when it let up and was OK. Times it got heavy. I think you have to expect stuff like that when you play outside. It was the same for both teams.”
And the cold accompanied the snow. The temperature at puck drop was 17.4 degrees. The fans and players not only braved the elements, but enjoyed the event.
“The experience is awesome, something I’ll never forget,” said center Brandon Sutter, who played in his first-ever outdoor game. “It was a lot of fun. With the snow it added to it for me. It took me back to when I was a kid skating outside. That was perfect. I wouldn’t want it any other way, except for the outcome.”
In fact, the only negative of the whole event was the final outcome.
“There’s a lot of this game that I will remember,” Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said. “You like the scene, the outdoors. There were pictures and moments in this game that were excellent. The outcome and how we played, I’ll have to erase that from the snapshot photo.”