Snow, wind, sleet— some or all of these elements could be out in full force on New Year's Day in Buffalo. So why does Sidney Crosby have such a warm feeling?
The young Pittsburgh Penguins superstar said Friday he's excited to be part of the Jan. 1 NHL Winter Classic outdoor game at Ralph Wilson Stadium against the Buffalo Sabres (CBC, 1 p.m. ET).
"I thought my outdoor days were done, for sure," Crosby said on a conference call. "I mean, as far as maybe getting home in the winter and playing the odd game outside with some kids or with some friends, I didn't think I'd be playing outside in an NHL game.
"We all remember those days playing outside, so there's something special about being outside playing a game."
The 20-year-old Penguins captain, who is again near the top of the league's points list as he attempts to defend his first scoring title, can't recall his last organized outdoor contest. He does, though, have fond memories of clandestine shinny games played with his junior teammates.
"In Rimouski [Quebec], they had outdoor rinks. I can remember, we'd have an off day, and I'd get my trainer to sneak my skates in my car and I used to go shoot outside and play outside and we'd have 3-on-3 games with guys on our team. We enjoyed that a lot.
"I can remember playing under the lights. That was the best time. They'd flood the ice around 8:30, and think everyone was done for the day. I'd sneak out around 9 or 9:30."
The latest bid by the NHL to attract attention— and American viewers— in an increasingly competitive pro sports market,Tuesday's outdoor game will be played on a temporary ice surface installedover the artificial turf field usuallyoccupied bythe NFL's Buffalo Bills.
While the air shouldn't be too frigid— Western New York is famous for its heavy snowfalls, but the mean temperature for early January is barely south of freezing— Crosby knows playing in a large, open football stadium could present some unique challenges.
"I think the big thing I'm thinking about is the wind," Crosby said. "If we're going into the wind for two periods, it might be a little bit different."
"But outside of that, I think you've just got to try to play, enjoy it and hope that everything goes smooth."
Even if conditions are near perfect (and they could be— forecasters are calling for a high temperature right around freezing, witha chance of flurries), Crosby cautioned fans not to expect the sort of freewheeling play seen on their local ponds.
"I'm sure our coaches are going to make sure that the teams are still playing the same way," he said. "As much as you enjoy playing outside, you've got to remember it's a regular-season game and there are points on the line.
"You can't change too much."