For the first time in National Hockey League history, its biggest annual outdoor game will be in Dallas. The New Year’s Day Winter Classic between the Dallas Stars and the Nashville Predators will be played in the Cotton Bowl at 12:30 p.m.
As the Stars prepared for the game at their Frisco facility, they were breaking in the new uniforms and stiff gloves they’ll wear Wednesday.
The retro style logo featured on the new gear isn’t just a marketing prop. It recalls the 1940s Dallas Texans hockey team — one of many professional hockey teams we’ve had in Texas.
Stars General Manager Jim Nill knows in North Texas football is supreme, so it’s a big deal — for players and fans — that the NHL’s Winter Classic will be played outdoors in a storied football stadium.
“It’s a once in a lifetime thing. The first time you play in one it’s a special, special event,” Nill said. “Everyone’s going to have family there, they’re going to have friends there. Then you walk out into the stadium and you see all the people and how expansive it is.”
Only six current Stars players have competed in outdoor NHL games. When Joe Pavelski was with San Jose, he played in the San Francisco 49ers football stadium. He said the sight of the crowd in an open stadium is “amazing.”
“When you get out in that stadium and the stands are far apart and the sky’s out there, it’s pretty cool how big it is,” Pavelski said. “You feel that space, similar to skating on a lake, skating outside [on a] backyard rink where you look up and there’s nothing above you.
There may be more than 85,000 fans at Wednesday’s game — more than four times the size of a sold-out American Airlines center.
Officials aren’t worried about the temperature, expected to be in the 50s. They say the portable rink will easily keep the ice frozen throughout the game.