The snow-spangled Winter Classic, played before 105,000 people at the University of Michigan's football stadium on New Year's Day, really hit home with the Islanders. First of all, like most hockey fans, they loved the spectacle. What's more, watching the game at The Big House made them hunger for their game at The Big Ballpark.
"It was pretty special, a great event, a great game," said John Tavares, who watched the Maple Leafs-Red Wings outdoor game with Colin McDonald. They found themselves talking about playing the Rangers at Yankee Stadium on Jan. 29.
Tavares said his junior team once visited the University of Michigan facility. "I was pretty amazed, walking into that stadium when it was empty. To see it full like that for a hockey game was pretty unique," he said. "I'd say that's when it kind of hit me, that we get to have that opportunity to play outside in a historic venue."
McDonald said that as a showcase, the Winter Classic "is obviously our big event, that's our Super Bowl. I'm sure it's even bigger than the Stanley Cup Finals. It's good for the game, so that's something you're proud about when you watch it.''
Frans Nielsen said he could tell it was hard for the players when the snowfall was heavier. "But the last two periods, that was some good hockey, actually," he said. "It looked fun, it really did."
And playing at the Stadium? Said Nielsen, "It's going to be pretty crazy."
Because of the bad weather, the Islanders announced that anyone with a ticket to last night's game can exchange it for a ticket to another weekday game regardless of whether they attended this one. All exchanges must be made at the Coliseum box office by Jan. 31.