LOS ANGELES — On January 24, the eve of the 2014 Stadium Series: Los Angeles, both the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks skated on Dodger Stadium ice for the first time, with the home team getting the first practice time at 4:00 PM.
It was a typical practice for the Kings, in terms of them doing line rushes, and a few drills. But that is where the similarities with any part of their normal routine ended, as they were obviously skating under a darkening sky, with the San Gabriel Mountains off in the distance, and Palm trees close by.
“It’s definitely different,” said Kings center Anze Kopitar. “If you associate anything to Southern California, I don’t think playing hockey outside would be the first thing you think about. It’s going to be pretty cool, and we’re going to enjoy it.”
“It’s more fitting when you’re playing outside, and snowflakes are coming down,” added Kopitar, who learned to skate on an outdoor rink back home in Slovenia. “But tomorrow’s going to be pretty cool, especially if it’s sunny. It’s going to make it that much more special, playing hockey outside in California. It’s not going to happen too often, but we’ve got a chance to enjoy it, and have fun with it.”
As reported in this space on January 24, those concerned that the rink will turn into a swimming pool are way out in left field (pun intended). Nevertheless, the ice will probably not be as good as it is in some National Hockey League arenas.
Despite that, Dodger Stadium ice got some positive reviews.
“The ice is pretty good,” said Kings forward Trevor Lewis. “Once we skated on it a bit more, it got a little chewed up, but it’s better than I thought it would be.”
“I thought it was pretty good,” said Ducks forward Corey Perry. “It was hard, it was quick. It was pretty much the same as our rink back in Anaheim. I didn’t mind it at all.”
The ice also got some not-so-positive comments.
“It was a little sticky, and not so smooth,” said Ducks winger Teemu Selanne. “But it’s not bad.”
“It was OK—soft,” said Kings defenseman Robyn Regher. “But we had a pretty good idea that it was going to be soft, with the temperature, and how it is outside. But the ice is fine.”
Players acknowledged the potential for bouncing pucks and turnovers caused by the ice conditions.
“It’ll be one or two passes that go tape-to-tape—flat,” said Ducks left wing Dustin Penner. “After that, it’s going to be ‘follow the bouncing puck.’”
“We have to keep it simple,” Kopitar noted. “We can’t over-pass, or over-think. We just have to put as many pucks on the net as we can. It’s usually not a bad play if the puck is going to the net with guys going there.”
By game time, the ice is expected to be better.
“Game time tomorrow is going to be two hours later, so there will be a few degrees difference, too,” Kopitar said, noting that the lower temperature will be better for the ice.
“I heard it’ll be better tomorrow,” said Selanne.
“It’s going to get better,” said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. “It’s probably not much different than when we played in April and May in the old, old buildings before there was air conditioning, if you think about it.”
The ice is indeed expected to be at least a little better by game time this evening. That said, the ice is still expected to be a bit soft.
“This ice will be softer than anything we’ve played on indoors,” said Regehr. “But you know it’s going to be a little bit different outdoors, and you can’t go into a game like this comparing the ice to what you play on indoors, because it’s a completely different environment.”
“You just have to go out there, see what it’s going to be like, and figure out how to play on it, how to be effective,” added Regher. “It makes no sense complaining about it.”
For soft ice, there is a trick to help players skate better.
“What you usually do is take less of a hollow on softer ice, because your skates have a tendency to dig into the ice more,” Regher explained.
The “hollow” is the rounded “valley” between the two edges of a skate blade, after sharpening.
“Less hollow means you’ll be able to glide a bit better, and you won’t dig into the ice quite as much,” Regher noted.
Lighting and glare could also be an issue tonight, but the players do not seem to be concerned.
“There’s a little glare on the ice from the lights, but I don’t think it’ll be too long before we get used to it,” said Lewis.
“The lights are going to be different,” Kopitar noted. “The glare is going to be a little different. But come game time, I don’t think we’re going to be worried about that too much. It’s going to be strictly about hockey, and we’ve got to focus on that, anyway.”
As of this writing, today’s weather forecast for Downtown Los Angeles calls for a high temperature of 73, which is higher than usual for this time of year, and that did not go unnoticed by the players.
“It’s definitely hotter than most rinks, so we’re going to have to make sure to stay hydrated,” Lewis noted.
“There’s a mindset that, when you’re sweating profusely—everybody was commenting on it,” said Penner. “It was like you couldn’t wipe your brow fast enough, your gloves are going to be wet. That kind of makes you feel heavier, and you can let that affect your concentration and/or focus, whether you’re passing the puck, or receiving it. It’s going to take a lot more mental strength than I think we expect.”
“I think we’ve all played on ice that’s been less than great,” said Sutter. “To be quite honest, there are a lot of similarities, when you think about it, to other outdoor games, except we’re going to have a 60-above temperature. It’s hot and humid out there.”
Regher, who played in the Heritage Classic in 2011 when he was with the Calgary Flames, indicated that the two teams would likely begin the game conservatively.
“I think there might be a little bit of a feeling out period,” said Regher. “When I’ve watched the outdoor games, and I participated in one in Canada, it takes a few shifts for guys to figure out how the ice is, and how things are going to go. But after that, it’s right to doing what you need to do to be effective out there.”
“That’s the natural way it happens,” added Regher. “In almost every [outdoor] game I’ve watched, it’s been that way, so I think it’ll probably be the same way here.”
Taking The Time
As the media waited…and waited…Selanne remained on the ice with his family after practice, well past the time the rest of his teammates had left the ice.
Mind you, no one was complaining, either. After all, this was Teemu Selanne, one of the all-time greats who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as soon as he becomes eligible.
“It’s so much fun to bring your family to skate after our practice, so they’re also going to remember it for a long time,” he said, with a smile.
Playing his final NHL season added to the significance for the Finnish Flash.
“I knew that this was going to be something really special for me, and something that I’ve never dreamed about [participating] in before,” he noted. “It’s the whole package, with the Olympics, and the team we have here in Anaheim. It was so much fun just to think about this year. So far, so good.”
“It’s different for me than for a lot of guys,” he added. “As you know, for me, it’s a one-time chance. I know this is my last year, so I try to enjoy every day, every moment, and this is one of them.”
Frozen Royalty’s 2014 Stadium Series: Los Angeles Coverage
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- NHL Hits Grand Slam Home Run At Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium
- 2014 Stadium Series Los Angeles: LA Kings, Anaheim Ducks Test Ice During Practice – In Photos
- 2014 Stadium Series Los Angeles – For The Last Time: Dodger Stadium Ice Will Be Just Fine
- 2014 Stadium Series at Dodger Stadium: Media Free Skate and Game – In Photos
- Take Metro’s Stadium Express From Union Station To Dodger Stadium For Stadium Series Game
- NHL Stadium Series Media Day At Dodger Stadium – In Photos
- NHL Stadium Series: Upcoming Game At Dodger Stadium Is Already Bringing Back Fond Memories For Players
- NHL’s Gary Bettman On Outdoor Game At Dodger Stadium: “When You Look At Hockey In Southern California, It Works”
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