After more than 15 years of outdoor NHL hockey games, has the novelty begun to wear off?
Not if you ask about 70,000 fans sitting in cold, and possibly wet, conditions on Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
And not if you ask the Flyers, who will be taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the back end of this under-the-stars (snowflakes?) series (8 p.m., NBC-TV), which began in 2017 with a game at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field, resulting in a Penguins victory.
Even though the Flyers are 0-2-1 in these open-air events, having lost to Boston (overtime) and the New York Rangers in Winter Classic games, plus the contest in Pittsburgh, they still look forward to the challenge.
Rookie goaltender Carter Hart will be playing in his first NHL outdoor game, but he did play one with his junior team, the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, last year.
That game was plagued by snow, similar to the infamous Buffalo-Pittsburgh game a few years ago where play had to be stopped frequently to shovel the ice.
“It was probably the exact same as that or worse,’’ Hart recalled. “They were shoveling the ice every two or three minutes. After two minutes, you couldn’t see the puck.
“You know, it was ridiculous how thick the snow was. The wind, too. For the second, third periods and overtime, there was a buzzer at the 10-minute mark, no matter what was going on (the teams switched ends), just to make it fair, because the wind was blowing really hard in one direction.’’
If he gets the start, Hart looks forward to the challenge.
Can he block out all the distractions of a roaring football stadium, the weather elements, etc.
“You just prepare the same,’’ Hart said. “Going through it last year, probably the hardest part was the weather conditions. Just battling that.
“Hopefully it will be a lot better this year and I think it will be. . .we’re coming into the end of February, so I think we’re starting to exit the snow season.’’
Hart is set to unveil a mask he had specially designed for this one game only. He said it would contain a tribute to the Eagles in the artwork.
James van Riemsdyk, about to play in his sixth outdoor game, expressed similar feelings.
“These outdoor games are always fun,’’ said van Riemsdyk, who took part in the 2010 game vs. Boston and the 2012 Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park against the Bruins, just months before he was traded to Toronto. “I’ve had a chance to play in a bunch of them (including three with the Maple Leafs).
“You get a chance to see a lot of different venues. It should be pretty cool.’’
JVR grew up in Middletown, N.J. as a Jets fan, so there isn’t that football connection to Philadelphia. But he still wants a chance to soak in the atmosphere provided by the Eagles and their recent Super Bowl championship.
No doubt there will be plenty of “E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!’’ chants throughout the evening.
“I did go to the (Eagles’) season-opener this year,’’ said van Riemsdyk. “I’ve been to a bunch. I know how cool the environment is in that building.’’
The Flyers are holding Friday’s practice at The Linc, 6 p.m. It will give the players a chance to get a feel for the ice surface, the locker rooms and the rest of the surroundings.
>Outdoor games by the numbers
Here are some numbers for outdoor games, provided by the NHL:
>**4** — The 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series will be the fourth NHL regular-season outdoor contest for the Flyers (2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, 2-1 (OT) loss against Boston at Fenway Park; 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, 3-2 loss against the New York Rangers at Citizens Bank Park and 2017 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series, 4-2 loss against Pittsburgh at Heinz Field).
>**6** — As mentioned, Saturday’s game will mark the sixth NHL regular-season outdoor game for van Riemsdyk; two with the Flyers and three as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the most of any player on either the Penguins or Flyers.
>**34.8** – Average temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, for all 26 of the NHL’s previous outdoor games.
>**53** — Length, in feet, of the world’s largest mobile rink refrigeration unit, specially built for outdoor games conducted by the NHL.
>**243** –- Number of ice pans under the rink at the Linc, each measuring 30 inches by 340 inches in size.
>**287** –- Total number of NHL regular-season games played between the Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins. In these games, Philadelphia has earned 348 points (154-93-40) and Pittsburgh has earned 287 points (103-147-37).
>**300** — Ton capacity of refrigeration trailer that will keep the ice cool at The Linc.
>**350** — Gallons of paint used to make the ice at The Linc white.
>**561** -– Number of four feet by eight feet stage decks used to level the ice rink.
>**735** — Total number of players and head coaches who have participated in the NHL’s 26 regular-season outdoor games to date.
>**1,200** -– Approximate number of tickets the NHL has provided in the lower bowl for distribution to youth hockey programs.
>**9,200** –- Working hours put in for the installation and dismantling of the rink and field décor elements.
>**20,000** -– Gallons of water needed to create a two-inch ice surface at The Linc.
>**50,000** –- The NHL together with the Flyers will donate $50,000 to establish a Warriors hockey team – the Philadelphia Flyers Warriors. Warriors Hockey is a discipline of USA Hockey and is dedicated to injured and disabled U.S. military veterans who have served their country and play the sport of hockey.