It was about 25 degrees Tuesday at 7 p.m., when Gophers coach Don Lucia, assistant coach Grant Potulny and forward Zach Budish came to the outdoor rink at Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis. As several hockey-playing kids and their parents looked on, the group showed off the new jerseys the men's hockey team will wear Sunday in its outdoor game against Wisconsin at Chicago's Soldier Field.
Like so many things in sports, the jerseys weren't entirely new. They reprised a vintage design from the 1960-61 season--which, it was pointed out, was Lou Nanne's first season in maroon and gold. The maroon sweaters feature "GOPHERS'' on the diagonal across the chest, with gold and white stripes on the sleeves and a commemorative patch for the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic. Budish modeled the jersey, while Lucia mingled with fans and Potulny enjoyed a skate with several dozen kids playing on the rink.
The event also included representatives from Defending the Blue Line, the group that provides hockey equipment, camps and tickets for children of military families. The game-worn jerseys will be auctioned off to benefit the group. Go to www.defendingtheblueline.org for more information.
Lucia and Potulny also modeled the old-school wool letter jackets the coaches will wear at the game. The Gophers will not have an outdoor practice until they arrive in Chicago on Saturday; they hoped to get outside Monday for a workout, but the snow interfered with their plans. Lucia said he isn't concerned.
"As long as we get on the ice the day before, we'll be fine,'' he said. "We just need to get the awe out.''
The Gophers also will figure out Saturday what they will need to wear to protect themselves against the cold. The team's equipment managers will be taking extra gear such as neck warmers and gloves to ensure the team will be properly outfitted. They will drive down Saturday from Madison--where they play Wisconsin at the Kohl Center on Friday night--and practice at Soldier Field in the late afternoon.
Lucia said university president Eric Kaler and athletic director Norwood Teague plan to attend. Teague is exploring the possibility of the Gophers hosting an outdoor game soon, something Lucia is anxious to do.
"We need to do it,'' Lucia said, "Our state wants it. I think it would be a great success.''