This weekend, the Stadium Series begins when the New Jersey Devils host the New York Rangers at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, followed by a repeat Rangers performance against the New York Islanders on Wednesday. While it won’t be blessed with a KISS performance (like the West Coast series), the Yankee Stadium series shares its week with football fans converging on New York City during Super Bowl week. (For those who don’t follow football, the new MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and New York Jets, is the home of Super Bowl XLVIII.)
“I think it’s going to be a great experience,” Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador said of the outdoor game. “I think what’s important is the games before it. We’re in a playoff race here. That game is going to be great, but if we’re not putting up wins up to that game, we’ve got to be careful because we could be out of the playoffs before that game.”
The Devils are 4-3-3 in their last 10 games, sitting fifth in the Metropolitan Division, just two wins out from third place.
“I think the focus in here is making sure leading up to that game is that [the game itself is] not a distraction. It’s one of those things where we’re taking care of business prior to that game…that [the outdoor game] means something.”
With the multiple polar vortexes descending upon the New York area, how are the players protecting themselves from possible injuries related to the cold? Devils forward Jaromir Jagr took himself out of his last Winter Classic (when he was with the Philadelphia Flyers) just a few short minutes into the game, citing the cold as causing problems with his leg muscle.
“Well, he’s old,” Salvador said, laughing.
“Quite honestly, I don’t have an answer for that because I’ve never played it,” Salvador said of how the team could prepare for the elements in the Stadium Series.
Has he ever played pond hockey?
“Yeah,” he said. “But it was so long ago. When you’re young and a kid, it’ll be minus-50 out there and your ears could be frozen. You don’t even feel the cold.”
Playing in the NHL outdoor games does have its luxuries though. Besides a posh locker room to change in, the teams will have a few extra comforts outside.
“I heard the benches are warm,” Salvador said. “I think we’re just going to be so excited that the cold isn’t going to be a factor.”
Before the announcement that the Devils were playing in the outdoor games, several Devils players in the past commented each year that they would love to play in an outdoor game, or even in an overseas exhibition game. Talks of playing in the old Yankee Stadium fell to the wayside over the years. To be able to play in the new one—that will be just as exciting, especially since the new stadium is better equipped for a hockey rink’s needs.
Salvador is amongst the players that are excited to be included in the special NHL outdoor experience.
“Oh definitely,” Salvador said. “It’s a great experience. I think every player wants to play outdoors in one of those games, especially my generation. There were a lot of outdoor rinks and I spent a lot of time outside. I think it will be a great experience.”
While the Stadium Series in New York will be braving the tail end of the second polar vortex of the season, it will not be facing drastic weather anywhere as close to the Winter Classic this year. The Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs not only braved the cold freezing temperatures, but they also played through a snowstorm with 105,491 fans in attendance.
The Rangers-Devils Stadium Series matchup is on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. EST (NBC/CBC). The Rangers/Islanders will play on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. EST (NBCSN/TSN).
For those fans visiting New York City, you can find a plethora of favorite things to do throughout the city by checking out the #NHLCityGuideNY. This list was constructed by the NHL for fans to share their favorite New York places with other visiting hockey fans. Of course, no visit to the Big Apple is complete without a stop to the NHL store, located at 47th and 6th Avenue (aka Avenue of the Americas). Keep in mind that it is Super Bowl week, so you’re sure to find plenty of free activities throughout the city in celebration.
ALSO OF NOTE: For those fans looking for Devils action similar to HBO’s 24/7, NHL Revealed will showcase a few of their top stars in an all access look behind the scenes. The series debuted last night on NBCSN. Replays of the first episode are as follows:
CANADA: 1/23 CBC at 9 p.m., 2/1 TVA (TBD), 1/26 SN at 9p.m.
U.S.: 1/27 NHLN at 7 p.m..
Here’s a glimpse at Martin Brodeur’s NHL Revealed feature: