This Saturday's Winter Classic game between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues has a chance to be one of the coldest outdoor games in NHL history, but the league is prepared to play on.
The annual New Years Day game will return under the lights at Target Field -- home of the Minnesota Twins -- with the weather forecast as of Tuesday calling for a high of -19 C and a low of -26 C. The previous record was the first modern outdoor game -- the 2003 Heritage Classic -- when the Edmonton Oilers clashed with the Montreal Canadiens at Commonwealth Stadium with the temperature at puck drop a crisp -17 C.
The stage is set.
— NHL (@NHL) December 29, 2021
"As with any outdoor game, weather is a factor," NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer said Tuesday in an interview with NHL.com. "We clearly recognize that when we go to any venue. And as with any game, we're monitoring the weather, and we'll make decisions that are in the interest of our players and our fans, period.
"We're getting expert opinions, but the weather is always changing too. It keeps moving. We're not going to make an educated guess. We're going to make a decision based on facts.
"As of right now, we are confident the game will go on as planned."
The game is sold out, according to Mayer, with a crowd of about 38,000 fans expected to bundle up to watch two of the top teams in the Central Division go to battle.
Despite the frigid forecast, some Wild players say they can't wait to hit the ice this weekend. In fact, to prepare, some of the players and their families got together for some outdoor shinny over Christmas.
View this post on Instagram
One of those players is Kirill Kaprizov, a native of Serbia who estimates he's played outdoors in temperatures colder than this forecast before.
“It’s obviously a great experience,” Kaprizov said, according to The Athletic. “Overall, it’s a great atmosphere. It’s super special for the team, the fans, the players. Depends though when it’s really cold, it’s obviously very tough. But overall, it’s a great, fun experience and a lot of fun for everyone.
“I loved playing as a kid and even just recently with a long break, we got a chance to go play some outdoor hockey. I love it. It’s always a lot of fun.”
The NHL has adjusted outdoor games in the past because of weather, most famously last season at Lake Tahoe, when sunlight forced a game between the Avalanche and Golden Knights to be delayed nine hours from the end of the first period to the start of the second.
"Every time we do an event, I can't tell you when it's going to snow. I can't tell you when the sun's going to shine," Mayer said. "We had a lot of people here in Minnesota who told us also how tough a Minnesota fan is, and that was certainly a factor in coming here."
You can watch the Winter Classic Saturday on Sportsnet ONE and SN NOW beginning at 7 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. CT.