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Outdoor game in football stadium old hat for Miller and Hall

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Outdoor game in football stadium old hat for Miller and Hall

The Canadian Press
By:

If there is one lasting image from the NHL's first outdoor game in Edmonton four seasons ago it is the Montreal Canadiens tuque adorned by goaltender Jose Theodore.

He wore it on top of his mask to keep warm. It ended up being a top-selling item. Ryan Miller remembers that and figures it's an option as well come Jan. 1 in Buffalo when his Sabres host Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins before 73,000 fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"I'm actually probably going to end up doing that," Miller said Monday. "Because I can't think of a real comfortable way otherwise. You get used to wearing your helmet a certain way and I don't know what I could wear underneath that would make it feel the same and keep warm.

"So that might be a good solution. Get some of that carpet tape and tape a tuque to my helmet."

Outdoor hockey is becoming old hat for Miller, who also played in the 2001 Cold War game between Michigan State and Michigan before 74,000 fans. Miller and Penguins winger Adam Hall were Spartans teammates and were both featured on an NHL media conference call Monday.

"I just remember the crowd noise and the sheer number of people," recalled Hall. "There was nothing quite like it."

Added Miller: "The crowd was the biggest thing. Being a young hockey player and walking out there it was pretty overwhelming to have 75,000 people going crazy."

The temperature that October night in Michigan was slightly below freezing. Not too bad at all. Who knows what the weather in Buffalo will bring come New Year's Day? It was around -19 C for the game in Edmonton four years ago.

"Maybe put on an extra layer or two underneath just to make sure you stay warm out there depending on the conditions of the day," suggested Hall. "You just got to keep wiggling your toes and your fingers as much as possible if it gets that cold.

"Maybe see if the trainers can put hot chocolate or coffee in the water battles on the bench."

Added Miller: "Or green tea."

Miller doesn't discount what effect cold weather could have on the game.

"I think cold does a lot more to you than you think," he said. "I think we should grab one of those survival books and figure out what those guys do to survive in the wild. You can get dehydrated very quickly in the wind and the cold just the same way you can as if it's hot out. So you have to be aware of that."

The quality of the ice will be a hot topic to be sure. The NFL's Buffalo Bills have a home game at Ralph Wilson Stadium next Sunday. The NHL takes possession of the stadium at midnight. That leaves a week to get the rink ready. Both teams will hold practices on it in the afternoon of New Year's Eve. The NHL's ice guru Dan Craig will be on hand to oversee the project.

"I'm sure they're going to make sure the ice will be as good as they can make it given the conditions," said Miller. "But that is the big thing. It is Buffalo and it is on the East side of the lake. So you never know what you're going to get."

Hall remembers the wind being a factor in his first outdoor experience.

"One period the wind is behind you and you'd feel like you were flying," said Hall. "The next period you're skating right into it and you feel like you're skating in quicksand."

Since the game is at 1 p.m. ET, Miller also wonders about any possible glare from the sun.

"It might be an issue," he said. "It's something we'll probably have to take into consideration. Maybe eye black or maybe even sun glasses if it's that bad."

Regardless of any possible imperfections, Miller says the first NHL outdoor game in the U.S. represents an important chance for the NHL south of the border.

"I'm optimistic," said Miller. "I think the game is in a good time slot. It's going to be an interesting game and if I wasn't a hockey fan, I'd want to know why they were playing on a football field. I would flip the channel and watch because I'd be curious.

"Hopefully with the kind of skills these two teams have, it'll spark some interest and get some people to watch a few more games and get into hockey. I think it has great potential."

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Outdoor game in football stadium old hat for Miller and Hall