Jonathan West reports on the 2016 NHL Stadium Series.
The Murray Warmath locker room underneath Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium is the largest in football anywhere. Earlier today, as the media walked out of the 60 yard-long Golden Gophers locker room, I asked NBC’s Doc Emrick to watch out or he might get lost in there. He smiled and shyly said he was trying to ask what the ground rules were, if the ball hit the ceiling before reaching the 450-foot sign?
That massive locker room was a true opening statement on this weekend…BIG
The “Star of the North” has waited for an NHL outdoor game for 49 years and through 17 disappointing missed selections. Now the “State of Hockey” finally has it. And this weekend, ice fishing (with warmer air & thinner ice) isn’t the only game on the pond in the Twin Cities. Ever since moving back home from New Jersey in 2012, Wild captain Zach Parise has been all smiles as the unofficial home team ambassador this weekend with warmer temperatures:
“My parents told me I’ve been skating since I was 2…The ice is ok. We went from Edmonton ice to here so (laugh) it’ll be a little different.”
The “Windy City” has produced a pretty good pro hockey team as of late. With ten NHL Awards to go with three Stanley Cups in the last six seasons, the “Third Coast” isn’t struggling at all to fill it’s ice-time seats at the United Center. With just over 20 games left in the regular season, the Blackhawks are 19 points ahead of Minnesota at the top of the West, and only 7 points behind Wasington for President’s Trophy position. Coach Joel Quenneville has been behind the bench for three outside games so far:
“We got a lot of new guys out here for the first time getting to play in it…brings you back to being a kid almost, out there having fun and smiling.”
Vezina Trophy candidate Corey Crawford has 32 of Chicago’s 38 wins this season. He was thrilled to practice today with members of the military’s Wounded Warriors:
“I wasn’t in net…I was trying to play forward and was like a ghost out there. (laugh) I actually grabbed Svedberg’s stick and took a few one timers out there.”
Almost 200 feet down the ice tomorrow will be Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota’s hope from the Great White North. With 20 of the Wild’s 26 wins in 2016, the big guy in goal told me his take on attending a lot of special NHL events lately like this Stadium Series matchup:
“There weren’t any special events in Hamilton (laugh) so we can keep rolling out the special events.”
Obviously last month’s All-Star forgot about the Maple Syrup Festival happening throughout March on the west end of Lake Ontario! But it’s a BIG weekend indeed, with hockey’s present visiting it’s past. So show your pride Upper Midwest! It’s the game you’ve waited a long time to see. One extra note for tomorrow…word in the press box is that there will be LOTS of pirotechnics.
Follow Jonathan West all weekend in Minnesota behind the scenes…on Twitter @JonathanSWest and on Instagram @JonnyPhotoBomb
WHO: Minnesota Wild vs. Chicago Blackhawks
WHERE: TCF Bank Stadium – University of Minnesota
WHEN: 2:30 PM Central Time
TV: NBC (United States) Sportsnet (Canada) TVA (Quebec)
RADIO: KFAN FM 100.3 (Wild) WGN 720 AM (Blackhawks)
Rendering compliments of the National Hockey League.