St. Louis – – It takes 20,000 gallons of water to make a two-inch ice surface at Busch Stadium. It takes another 350 gallons of paint to make the ice white. It takes 243 ice pans under the rink. It takes a 300-ton capacity of refrigeration trailer to keep said ice cool throughout the game. The one and only number that matters in all of this is the one that will get added to the win column for one of two teams partaking in the Winter Classic.
The Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues have battled 304 times in their storied history; however, game number 305 may be the biggest of them all.
On January 2nd, both teams will play outdoors at Busch Stadium in the NHL’s annual Winter Classic. This will be the first time the Blues have played in any outdoor game, making them the 23rd team in the NHL to participate in an regular season game played outside.
Chicago is atop of the Central Division and the entire Western Conference with 51 points. The Blues aren’t too far behind – 3rd place in the Central – with 43 points. Both teams boast talent up and down the lineup. Russian standouts Vladimir Tarasenko (39 points) and Artemi Panarin (38 points) both lead their teams in scoring and sit 4th and 5th respectively in the entire NHL. Patrick Kane just trails both tied for 6th in the league with 37 points. It isn’t just the forwards who have been contributing this year either.
Duncan Keith has been a prominent blueliner for the Blackhawks for years now, and this season has been no different. With a goal and 24 assists, Keith ranks 4th among NHL defensemen, where as St. Louis’ Kevin Shattenkirk is tied for 5th with 24 points.
The Blues don’t have any injury issues to worry about, but the Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa has been battling a nagging upper body issue for the last two weeks, leaving him questionable to play in the Winter Classic. He also didn’t travel with the team to Nashville or Carolina, yet head coach Joel Quenneville still is holding out hope that Hossa can participate outdoors.
Quenneville is no newcomer to St. Louis. His first head coaching stint was with the Blues during the 1996-97. That lasted until 2004, where he never missed out on the playoffs. After a pit stop in Colorado, Quenneville became the Chicago Blackhawks head coach in 2008 and has led the prosperous club to three Stanley Cups in the last six years.
There isn’t a doubt the game will be a spectacle as it is every year. The biggest question mark will be the weather. The average high temperature for St. Louis on January 2nd is 39 degrees Fahrenheit. On January 2nd of this year it’s slated to be a balmy 55 degrees at puck drop with a strong chances of thunderstorms. As a result, early talks are that the game may be pushed till nightfall when the skies clear up, or potentially the following day.
This isn’t the first time inclement weather has affected the Winter Classic. In 2011, the Winter Classic between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins was pushed seven hours due to similar conditions.
Rest assured some of the NHL’s best will be ready to due battle no matter the time, date, or conditions and it will be a dandy!