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Playing in Winter Classic brings back early memories for Stars

Dallas players and coaches expect them to come flooding back when they take the ice outdoors at Cotton Bowl Stadium

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

FRISCO, Texas -- Rick Bowness remembers skating with his dad on the backyard rink in Nova Scotia, and said he expects those memories to come flooding back on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Cotton Bowl.

The Stars coach will get a front-row seat to the Winter Classic, and said playing outdoors will be both different and fun. Bowness' dad, Bob, played in the Montreal Canadiens system, so when he was raising his kids he always had a rink in the backyard. The young Bowness said indoor ice was a rare treat when he was young, so he did much of his learning on his dad's rink.


[WINTER CLASSIC GUIDE: Everything you need to know before the Stars and Predators face off at Cotton Bowl Stadium]


"If you wanted to play, you skated outside," Bowness said. "We did a lot of outdoor skating. My dad always made a rink in the backyard, and we would have leagues. I have great memories of skating outdoors, I have great memories of my dad making the rink."

Outdoor hockey has been a big part of the experience for several Stars players growing up, and those memories will come back this week. Joe Pavelski grew up in Plover, Wisconsin, and his big brother Jerry would always make a rink outside. Getting home and slapping the skates on was pretty much a ritual.

Video: Pavelski looking forward to Winter Classic with Stars

"That's where your love of the game develops," Pavelski said.

John Klingberg played more ball hockey outdoors in Sweden than ice hockey, but said games with his big brother, Carl, could get pretty intense.

"We definitely competed hard," Klingberg said. "It was always Game 7, and I always won."

Carl Klingberg, who plays for Zug in the Swiss League, is listed at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds. John Klingberg is typically closer to 180, so there was a difference in size. But John said street hockey is more of a creative game than a physical one, so that helped him.

"For street hockey, it's all about skill," he said. "I always tried to make new moves. You always wanted to be the cool guy thinking up something different, and I think that helped me."

Klingberg said they would always make younger brother, Olle, play goal, but that being out with family made everything fun.

Jason Dickinson's younger brother, Josh, and he also pushed each other hard.

"Pretty much every game would almost end up in a fight," Dickinson said with a smile.

Josh Dickinson, 22, now plays in the Avalanche system, and Jason, 24, said the two definitely brought out the best in each other.

"I was always the older brother, so you're not allowed to retaliate or mom would get mad at me," Jason said. "I would have to try to keep my cool as best as I could. … Looking back now, he knows how hard it was for me."

Video: Stars finally able to turn focus to Winter Classic

Still, those are the best memories, and those are the ones that will come flooding back when the Stars are skating on the ice in the Cotton Bowl.

"It's nostalgic really," Dickinson said. "You think about playing as a kid and shoveling up the snow banks to make the rink. Even playing with my buddies, that was so much fun."

The Stars on Tuesday will get their first outdoor practice and then are scheduled to follow with a family skate. Players are expected to have family members on the ice after practice, and to look back at the old days.

Bowness has his three kids in town, and said he's looking forward to the experience.

"This should be a family event," the coach said. "Everyone's family and friends are flying in for it, and that shows the magnitude of it. It's a great family event, and we want the players to enjoy every minute of it."


New Year's Eve practice gives Stars first glimpse at ice

The Stars and Nashville Predators will get their only real chance to adjust to the ice at the Cotton Bowl on Tuesday before playing Wednesday's game. In addition to a different skating surface, the biggest change will be the background of a football stadium. Both goalies and shooters will have to adjust for sun and sight lines.

"I think it's very important, clearly, for the goalies to get out there and see the puck coming at them in the daylight, and the guys getting used to that," Bowness said. "It's just getting accustomed, a little bit more comfortable on outdoor ice."


[READ MORE: Texas hockey ready for its close-up at Winter Classic]


Bowness has never coached in an outdoor game, but said he has talked to a few coaches about the experience. Plus, the Stars just played Nashville Dec. 14.

"We know Nashville very well," Bowness said. "We know their tendencies, they know ours. We know the matchups we're going to try to get, they know the matchups they're going to try to get. How much the outdoor rink plays into that, we won't know until we get in. I can't see a lot of changes other than the rink and the outdoor atmosphere."


2020 NHL Winter Classic: Stars vs. Predators

Wednesday, 12:30 p.m. CT

Where: Cotton Bowl Stadium, Dallas

TV/radio: NBC; The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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