Rod Gilbert is 76 years old and hasn’t played in the NHL since 1978, so he never came close to participating in a Winter Classic. But the former Ranger and hockey Hall of Famer would love to have had the opportunity — when he was young enough to handle it.
“I did play [outside], when I was young and vivacious,” he said before Monday’s game between the Rangers and Sabres at Citi Field. “I grew up in Montreal, and I just talked to my brother and he said it’s, like, 15 below zero there. I said, ‘Do you remember when we used to go out in that?’ He said, ‘When you’re young you don’t feel it.’ ”
Gilbert was at Yankee Stadium in 2014 when the Rangers played two games the week of Super Bowl XLVIII, and he loved the atmosphere. He expected more of the same in Queens.
“It’s the ambience of being outside, and the ice is going to be real fast, because today is an ideal day,” he said. [It was 20.5 degrees when the game began]. “If it’s warmer the ice is not going to be as nice, and it’s not cold enough to affect the players, I don’t think.”
Gilbert said the fact it is a regular-season game adds to the appeal. “Although it’s such a big event, you still get two points,” he said. “There’s still a hockey game going on.”
When was the last time Gilbert played outdoors himself?
“Oh, a long time ago, when I was a kid,” he said. “I never had the opportunity to play [outside] later on, but I remember I enjoyed it a lot. We used to spend seven, eight hours. My mom said, ‘You have to come in for lunch.’ We’d say, ‘No, no, you can’t eat when you’re playing.’ There was never enough time to play. It was great.”