Gophers hockey recalls when outside ice was nice

Gophers coaches and players all have fond memories of skating outdoors growing up.

 

The last time we saw Gophers hockey captains Nate Condon and Kyle Rau at TCF Bank Stadium, they were sporting shorts and flip flops. They’ll be layered up a little more than that when they return to the field-turned-rink on Friday night.

On a warm, sunny September day, the Gophers athletic staff gathered on the turf to announce big-time outdoor hockey would return to Minnesota. That return comes with the Hockey City Classic on Friday at the transformed — and frozen — TCF Bank Stadium.

The cold, crisp outdoor elements, however, are preferred by the Gophers. Their memories of playing outside often include a mention of frigid temperatures.

Outdoor hockey is part of the DNA of Gophers hockey. Most of the players and coaches learned to skate in open air. They will revisit those roots for the Gophers’ first outdoor hockey game in the modern era.

“It’s just going to be a lot of fun. I think we’ll have good fan support and it’ll be a good experience for everyone,” Gophers forward Seth Ambroz said. “It’s special to play [outside] in front of your home fans right across the street in TCF.”

Before they make new memories on Friday, the Gophers’ favorite outdoor hockey moments include …

Gophers head coach Don Lucia

“As a youth player, that is how I started to play the game, on outdoor ice. Power-skating, when I grew up, was shoveling off the outdoor rink. Sometimes you didn’t want to wait for the plow, so you had to get out there and get the shovels and get the [snow] to the boards and scoop it over the boards. But that was the fun of it.”

Sophomore defenseman Mike Reilly

“Our house is right next to [a lake] and we have an [ice rink] area out front that we play on. My dad freezes over the sport court. There’s also a bunch of outdoor rinks by our house, so we can drive five minutes and play with our buddies. To look back on playing squirts, peewees, bantams, high school and college [outside], it’s pretty special.”

Sophomore goaltender Adam Wilcox

“I grew up around it my whole life. We had three rinks in South St. Paul where I played. We actually had a couple games in squirts and peewees every year outside. … It’s kind of nice to keep the tradition going in each year.”

Senior defenseman Justin Holl

“It’s basically where I learned to skate. I have a ton of memories of Christmas Day [outside] where we play family hockey games. It was right down a hill onto the lake.”

Freshman forward Hudson Fasching

“Maybe peewees or bantams [age], we got 30 or 40 kids from Apple Valley and all went down to the community center and had a huge 4-on-4 tournament. It was like an all-day thing and our parents would run by and bring a huge thing of McDonald’s for all the guys. It was freezing cold. … But it was a great day.”

Junior defenseman Ben Marshall

  • guide: the Hockey City Classic at tcf bank stadium

    guide: the Hockey City Classic at tcf bank stadium

    the games One ticket gets you into both games:

    3:30 p.m.: Gates open.

    4:30 p.m.: Gophers women vs. MSU Mankato

    8 p.m.: Gophers men vs. Ohio State

    Re-entry will be allowed until 8 p.m. To leave the stadium, you must go to Gate E and scan your ticket so you will be allowed back in the stadium.

    at the games

    • The facility will operate under gameday protocol; alcoholic beverages will be sold at concession stands.

    • The video board will display all live game action.

    Parking opens at 2 p.m.

    All surface parking areas on the East Bank campus are sold out. Parking will be available on the West Bank campus and the State Fairgrounds in St. Paul. Shuttles from the Fairgrounds will start at 5 p.m. Parking will be available at the Oak Street, Washington Avenue and Church Street ramps.

    Tailgating allowed

    Pregame celebrations will be permitted on East Bank surface lots only, beginning at 2 p.m. and running until midnight.

    weather: dress warm

    Forecast: Cold! Single-digit temps, with “feels like” readings around minus-5.

    A big warming house: Mariucci Arena will be open to fans starting at 2 p.m. Food and drinks (no alcohol) will be for sale. The Gophers women’s game will be broadcast on the video board. Mariucci Arena will close at 8 p.m. There will be no designated warming areas once the men’s game starts.

    JASON GONZALEZ

    VIDEO: Intersport VP Drew Russell explains what it took to bring the Hockey City Classic to Minnesota and TCF Bank Stadium.

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