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Hagelin eager for another outdoor game

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Carl Hagelin doesn't have a whole lot of wisdom he can impart on veteran teammates Henrik Lundqvist, Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards. The 23-year-old has been in the NHL for barely a month, so there are very few pieces of unsolicited advice he can bestow upon those who have been playing at this level since he was a teen in Sweden.

But when it comes to playing in outdoor hockey games, Hagelin makes almost everyone in the New York Rangers' locker room look like a wet-behind-the-ears kid -- the speedy left wing is the only Ranger who can say he has played in two outdoor games.

As a member of the Michigan Wolverines, he played outside at the University of Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium in February 2010 in 21-degree temperatures -- against current teammates Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh -- and again in December 2010 against Michigan State in "The Big Chill At The Big House," with the temperature in the low-40s.

Stepan and McDonagh hold the bragging rights from their matchup, a 3-2 Wisconsin victory aided by two late power-play goals. But Hagelin found more success in December, as the Wolverines blitzed the Spartans 5-0 behind 2 goals and an assist by Hagelin.

Those experiences only can help when the Rangers play outside at Citizens Bank Park on Jan. 2 in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Flyers in Philadelphia.

"I've played two outdoor games now, and I was more nervous for the first one than I was for the second one," Hagelin told "I know what the ice is going to be like. At Wisconsin, it was really cold so there were big chunks of ice coming up all the time. We were fortunate last year at The Big House (Michigan Stadium). We had the perfect temperature. The ice was like any other ice. I know how everyone is going to feel out there. It feels like you can skate forever. You don't really get tired on the ice with all the fresh air. At least, that's the way I felt."

It's unfair to compare the level of competition in an NCAA game to that of an NHL game, but the game against the Flyers will be a slight step down for Hagelin in one regard: Attendance.

When Hagelin played at Camp Randall, it was in front of 55,031 fans. Against the Spartans at Michigan Stadium, there were 113,411 announced fans packed into the stadium, a record for attendance at a hockey game.

Citizens Bank Park will have a capacity of about 47,000 for the Winter Classic. That's more than twice what the Rangers routinely draw at a sold-out Madison Square Garden, but far less than what Hagelin saw at Wisconsin and Michigan.

This will be the third outdoor game for the Flyers' Maxime Talbot as well, but just the second in which he'll play. He missed the inaugural Winter Classic in 2008 as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins due to injury, but was in attendance. Talbot played in the 2011 game with the Pens last season in Pittsburgh, but Hagelin brings more outdoor experience into the 2012 contest than anyone else who will suit up for either team.

From the sound of it, Hagelin learned a lot between his first and second outdoor forays.

"I think the first period, not only myself, but both teams were skating around looking at everything," Hagelin said of the game at Camp Randall. "The crowd is so far away, but you feel like you still want to see them. That was probably the best experience, just knowing this is any other game."

Michael Rupp and Erik Christensen are the only Rangers who have played in Winter Classics. McDonagh and Stepan only have their outdoor college game at Wisconsin to their credit, but every little bit can help in such a unique situation.

"It was a great atmosphere," McDonagh said. "We didn't feel the cold as much as the fans did. It didn't affect you, really. It was a little cold. It was perfect timing. Overall it was a great experience to be outside again."

McDonagh said the one thing playing outside taught him is it's no different than playing inside once you get past everything surrounding the game.

"We had a cold night, but I didn't wear anything different," McDonagh said. "No long pants or anything like that. We had heaters on the bench, which helped. Other than that, it's still a hockey game. The boards are the same. There was nothing really unexpected."

One thing Hagelin should expect as the 2012 Winter Classic draws near are a few reminders from McDonagh and Stepan about who won that outdoor game between Michigan and Wisconsin.

"I like to remind them, too," said Hagelin, who was quick to show his Wolverine pride. "We were dominating the game and then they get two lucky goals at the end on bad calls by the ref."

Author: Dave Lozo | Staff Writer

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