It’s a confession that might surprise a lot of NHL players who honed their skills as kids battling cold and snow playing on outdoor hockey rinks.
Right-winger Patrick Kane says his first outdoor game will be Jan. 1 when his Chicago Blackhawks face the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field.
“I’ve never played a game outdoors,” the Buffalo native told reporters on a telephone conference call Thursday. “It’s probably tough to believe coming from Buffalo, with the weather there and how cold it is and how much people love hockey.
“There was a downtown rink in Buffalo that maybe myself and my dad and a couple of buddies would go to and just fool around, pass the puck, stuff like that. To be honest with you, the first organized outdoor game for me will be Jan. 1.”
Kane watched last year’s match in Buffalo, so he has an idea what he might expect.
“It’s probably going to be a little frustrating out there,” said the 20-year-old, who was the NHL’s rookie of the year last season. “The ice is going to be a little different. The game is going to be longer. Sometimes you get cold out there.
“You have to deal with that too.”
A crowd of 71,217 crowded into the NFL Buffalo Bills’ Ralph Wilson Stadium to watch the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Sabres 2-1 in a shootout last New Year’s Day.
This year’s game, which is expected to draw around 41,000, is already sold out.
It will be the 701st matchup between the two Original Six teams. No other NHL opponent has played more regular-season games against each other.
The Blackhawks and Red Wings have split the two games they’ve played this season. Both matches were decided in a shootout and a total of 20 goals were scored.
“Every time the Blackhawks and Red Wings meet it seems to be a great game,” said Kane, who currently leads all Western Conference forwards in all-star voting. “This year it seems to be really high-scoring, really close games.
“I think the game is going to be perfect Jan. 1. The fans want to see a lot of goals, a lot of up-tempo, a lot of skill in the game. It should be good for the league.”