Players split on idea of Winter Classic

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 7:52 AM ET

Maybe it was the recent cold snap that sent shivers up Jarome Iginla's spine when he was asked about the possibility of playing an outdoor game in Calgary next season.

The idea has been resurrected by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's comments the league is considering a second outdoor game next February featuring two Canadian teams on Hockey Day in Canada.

Laughing when the question was raised, Iginla wasn't as thrilled as a couple of his teammates.

"It could be great, if it's minus-2 or -3 or whatever," said the Flames captain. "I think it's a nice tradition in hockey that's been started in different places around the league. If it is (in Calgary) we'll be ready to play. But I don't mind watching them on TV, too."

Fans have seen plenty of the big events on TV in recent years, with the Winter Classic now an annual New Year's Day tradition.

The whole idea seems to have been spawned by the Cold War battle between the University of Michigan Wolverines and rival Michigan State Spartans, which took place at Spartan Stadium in front of a record 75,544 spectators in October 2001.

That inspired the Heritage Classic between the Oilers and Canadiens at Commonwealth Stadium in 2003 and led to the Winter Classic between the Penguins and Sabres in 2008 and the Blackhawks' battle with the Red Wings a year ago.

Participants in the Cold War have been looking for something as thrilling ever since.

"One of the best hockey experiences I've ever had," said Flames winger Eric Nystrom, who suited up for the Wolverines as a freshman in his first college game. "It's hard to top that. Everything after that was a little bit of a letdown.

"It's a great thing for the fans. It's a different atmosphere. It's just a lot of fun.

"If it's not minus-30, it'd be nice."

Weather is the biggest concern for the players, and probably for the fans and all those involved in putting the event together. Calgary's forecast is unpredictable at best as the deepfreeze that turned into a chinook this week illustrates.

"If there's a blizzard or something and they have to cancel the game, it's a lot of money put into one day," said David Moss, Nystrom's teammate at the University of Michigan.

But it's unlikely any oddities from Mother Nature would keep Flames fans from flocking to McMahon Stadium if it's selected as the venue for next winter.

"We've got great hockey fans, not scared of a little cold weather," Iginla said. "I think they'd be out there."


Videos

Photos