NHL Seeks To Create ‘Ultimate Hockey Experience’ For Winter Classic At Target Field

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Savage Captain Jared Spurgeon kept glancing over his shoulder at the scene behind him on Friday afternoon as he stood in the seats behind the plate at Target Field.

Tarps covered most of the outfield, cones were posted near the pitch mound, and other supplies were placed in the infield.

The process of transforming the baseball stadium into a hockey paradise had begun.

“You see all the photos ahead of time and what they’re supposed to look like and seeing them in person is exciting,” Spurgeon said.

The Winter Classic puck between the Wild and the St. Louis Blues won’t take place until New Years Day, but the vision for the return of the NHL’s flagship event has already been framed.

Now is the time to execute it.

On Thursday, the NHL’s ice-making team arrived in the Twin Cities and began unloading equipment that will install not one, but nine rinks at Target Field.

Aside from where the Wild and Blues will face off on a sheet that will anchor the midfield, eight pond hockey rinks will dot the outfield – the most ever recorded in an away game of the NHL.

Over 100 hockey players from programs across Minnesota will be playing on them before the game and during intermissions.

These ponds, along with other features like a log cabin and ice fishing holes, were inspired by Minnesota’s lakes and its outdoor hockey tradition because the NHL wanted to celebrate the state of hockey with this projector.

“We kind of set out to create an environment that at a glance lets you say ‘Wow, this is the ultimate hockey experience’,” said Steve Mayer, director of league content. .

Behind the central field is the Ice Factory, a 53-foot mobile refrigeration unit essential for the makeover.

After passing the piping, the team will install the bins on Sunday, then the planks will be put in place on Monday. If all goes well, the ice will begin to form that night.

“It looks like we’re going to have a great time for the hockey and some ice cream outside this time around,” said Mike Craig, senior director of NHL hockey operations and operations. “So the forecast is really in our favor.”

Craig expects most of the work to be completed during the day, but his team constantly checks the weather and receives updates three times a day. They are looking at what to expect for the next few hours as well as the long term outlook.

“Anything near the freezing point is ideal,” Craig said. “That way we have the ability to operate our truck and our equipment as it should and have full control over what is going on. “

On the evening of December 30, two days before the start of prime time at 6 p.m., the site will be ready for hockey.

“The rink will be fully set up, everything will be ready,” said Craig.

Since the Wild was originally supposed to host the Winter Classic on New Years Day 2021, planning for the show began before the game was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It will be the first winter classic since the interpretation of 2020 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, and the revival will also include the unveiling of the 2022 U.S. Olympic women’s hockey team, current appearances and former sports stars. from Minnesota and a performance by a country music singer. Thomas Rhett.

But the main attraction is the action on the ice between the Wild and the Blues.

“Minnesota people love their outdoor hockey so I can’t wait,” said Nick Bjugstad of the Wild, former Blaine High School and Gophers forward who also premiered Target Field on Friday with Spurgeon. . “It’s going to be a good game. It’s always a good rivalry with the Blues, and I’m sure we’ll have a great performance. So a lot of excitement.”

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