The first chill of the season has arrived in New York. Time for the Boys of Winter to go play outside.
On Saturday at noon the Blueshirts will go off Broadway and outdoors, holding their practice at Lasker Rink in the northern end of Central Park, under the skies and in front of their fans. And Saturday's weather forecast could not be more perfect for outdoor hockey: Temperatures in the 40s with a few clouds in the sky to muffle the sun and cut down on the glare off the ice (that's for you, Hank and Georgie).
Season Ticket Members who hold tickets for the practice session will have access to Lasker Rink's seating area, but all fans are welcome to take in the practice from viewing areas within Central Park around Lasker - to reach the rink, enter the Park at Central Park North (110th St.) and Lenox Ave.; the 2 and 3 trains stop on that corner, at the Central Park North Station. Click here for more information.
Like so many NHL players, the Rangers, who come from seven different countries, can trace their hockey lives back to an outdoor rink somewhere around North America and Europe. The team held a practice at Lasker two years ago in preparation for their Winter Classic win over the Buffalo Sabres at Citi Field; this year they're back for the fun of it, and can't wait for a day in the Park with their fans:
(who, just incidentally, is undefeated in four outdoor NHL games, with a stat line of 4-0/1.98/.934 that includes Winter Classic wins over the Sabres and Flyers)
"It's very special to skate outside, it always is. That's how I started. And having the fans there, giving them a chance to see how we run practices -- this is a great opportunity for us to be out there with them and for them to kind of see what we do and how we do it every day. And it's fun, too, to break it up -- instead of going to the practice rink every day you do something different, and every time you do that you reenergize everyone a little bit. This will have a new feel to it and it's going to be a lot of fun."
"That's going to be a pretty cool day. I mean, for all the fans come out and everything - I heard there was quite a crowd last time. Especially for me, like a lot of guys being from where the cold winters are, growing up on the outdoor rink, it was just like another home for every kid. The one we played on was just behind my house, that was where all of us met up. I think it'll just be really cool for everyone and kind of bring back memories from being kids. It will for me."
"One thing I'm looking forward to is that my buddy is in town and him and my wife are going to come watch us practice -- everyone always sees the glory and the games, and now they get to see what it's like in practice. But in all seriousness, just being outside and playing outside, that's just cool. As a kid that's the way I grew up playing - it was either road hockey or pond hockey on the outdoor rinks. And even though it's a practice, we have such a unique city and it's cool to be able to take advantage of it with something like this."
And what is it like practicing on a rink like Lasker with a far smaller ice surface?
"Less skating for practice. You have to look at the positives."
"I don't think so much about the rink; what always strikes me, especially as a goalie, is the light. It's so different. That's the biggest difference, just the light and how you see the puck, and the glare from the ice. You remember that light every time you go play outside.
"But when it's one practice, you just adjust and go have fun. Hopefully the fans enjoy it, and hopefully we can put on a little show for them."