Rangers rookie Carl Hagelin started the season in the AHL and probably didn’t think he’d have the opportunity to play in this year’s Winter Classic, when the Blueshirts faceoff against the Philadelphia Flyers from Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia on Jan. 2.
But after being recalled to the big club on Thanksgiving, the 23-year-old Swede has the date circled to play in his second outdoor game of his life, dating back to his days at the University of Michigan, where he played two outdoor contests, including one against teammates Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh when the two played at the University of Wisconsin.
“I’ve played two outdoor games now, and I was more nervous for the first one than I was for the second one,” Hagelin told NHL.com. “I know what the ice is going to be like. At Wisconsin, it was really cold so there were big chunks of ice coming up all the time. We were fortunate last year at The Big House. We had the perfect temperature. The ice was like any other ice.”
Hagelin said the outdoor air makes the players out physically. “I know how everyone is going to feel out there,” he said. “It feels like you can skate forever. You don’t really get tired on the ice with all the fresh air. At least, that’s the way I felt.”
This year’s game marks the fifth Winter Classic the NHL has put on — as well as several Heritage Classic matches for Canadian teams — so there are few players in the league with experience of playing outside in front of crowds sometimes triple the size of a regular arena game. For Hagelin and his Wolverine teammates playing against rival Michigan State, they played in front of 113,411 people.
“I think the first period, not only myself, but both teams were skating around looking at everything,” Hagelin said. “The crowd is so far away, but you feel like you still want to see them. That was probably the best experience, just knowing this is any other game.”
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