DENVER – Playing in his 16th NHL season, Brad Richards doesn’t take anything for granted as his career winds to a finish.
That’s why Saturday’s Stadium Series outdoor game against the Colorado Avalanche is so special for the Red Wings’ veteran forward.
When the game begins at Coors Field, the 35-year-old Richards will become the leader in most outdoor games played sponsored by the NHL. Now with his fifth team, Richards has one goal in four previous outdoor games – three with the New York Rangers and one with Chicago.
“Anytime you’re part of the league, let alone getting to do these things it’s just great memories for me that I’ll be able to have the rest of my life,” Richards said. “Every day you don’t take this game for granted and to be able to do these things with the audience and the attention on it it’s not a regular game in an 82-game schedule.”
Coors Field will be the fourth baseball-exclusive ballpark. The others were Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Yankee Stadium, where he played two Stadium Series games, and Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
Seven other NHL players have played in four outdoor games.
Saturday’s game will be the sixth unique experience for Luke Glendening, who has played in outdoor games in the NHL, AHL and college.
“Yeah, I've played in a lot of them, been fortunate,” Glendening said. “They're all different and unique experiences but they're all a blast.”
Glendening said he’s fortunate as a third-year NHL player to have played in outdoor games at three levels with the Red Wings, Grand Rapids Griffins, and the University of Michigan.
“I was ecstatic to play one and they just kept coming in my college career and they've kept coming in my pro career so far,” he said.
As a Michigan Wolverine, Glendening played in three outdoor games at Michigan Stadium on the UM campus, Camp Randal Stadium in Madison, Wis., and Progressive Field in Cleveland.
But it was the 2014 Winter Classic against Toronto that was Glendening’s favorite.
“Being back in Ann Arbor was obviously really special,” he said. “They've all had their own flair and I've enjoyed every single one.”
Glendening’s last two outdoor games came on back-to-back days when he played with the Griffins in an AHL game at Comerica Park in Detroit and was recalled by the Wings a few hours later.
“It’s unreal. I knew Glennie was in that spot,” said Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill, who coached Glendening in Grand Rapids. “It’s funny how sometimes things work. Glennie played for us, it was the last game he played in the American League, and then he went and played in the Big House. I remember being on the bus on the way home and getting the call and Glennie you got to turn around and drive back to Detroit and that was a call he welcomed certainly.”
But for every Glendening there’s a Tomas Jurco, who missed out on the last NHL outdoor game when he was reassigned to the Wings’ minor-league affiliate.
“I believe this will be Tomas Jurco’s first (outdoor game) because he got hit in the crossfire the other way,” Blashill said. “He missed out for us and missed out for Detroit last time. I think it’s a neat thing for Glennie. It says these have become more normal things so they’re probably not as abnormal as they once were. … I just think it means he’s another guy we can draw on for his experiences.”
Stadium Series Practice at Coors Field
ROCKY ICE: The Red Wings’ practice, originally scheduled for 1 p.m. (local time) was pushed back 30 minutes to give the ice crew time to remove the insulated blankets and clear water that had pooled on the ice surface.
By the time the Red Wings practiced the air temperature at Coors Field was in the 60s.
“The ice was bad today,” Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “But I don't think they could do anything else, either with this warm weather we have and the sun. I think the sun is the most concern. Tomorrow for the game we won't have that.”
With the sunset scheduled for 5:49 p.m., the 6 p.m. start won’t have to contend with the sun causing ice melt. The weather forecast for the start of the game is calling for 61-degree and cloudy.
“It should be fine,” Zetterberg said. “It should cool down to game time and no one will be on the ice tomorrow either, so it will be much better tomorrow.”
PLANNING AHEAD: While most of his teammates sported eye black meant to cut down on sun glare, Danny DeKeyser broke out the shades.
The defenseman was the only Red Wings’ player who looked prepared for the sunny elements at Coors Field on Friday.
“When I was at the hotel earlier, I went for a little walk and saw that there wasn't a cloud in the sky and it was pretty bright,” DeKeyser said. “I just had those as a backup plan. I needed them out there.”