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USA TODAY
Kevin Allen, @ByKevinAllen, USA TODAY Sports

The NHL will turn up the heat on its outdoor hockey concept Saturday when the Los Angeles Kings play the Anaheim Ducks at Dodger Stadium (9:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports) with a game-time temperature near 60 degrees.

With a beach volleyball court set up near the rink and KISS providing entertainment, this will be like no other outdoor hockey game you have ever seen.

"Most of the guys are packing a different kind of wardrobe (for Los Angeles)," NHL chief operating officer John Collins said. "I'm expecting a lot of Hawaiian shirts on game day instead of six layers of clothes."

Weather.com projects Saturday's temperature range at 50 to 79 degrees. Compare that to a wind-chill index of zero Jan. 1 at the Winter Classic.

"I grew up in Kingston, Ontario, and I loved to play outdoors," Ducks general manager Bob Murray said. "We always had icicles on our faces. To think we can have ice good enough to play here (in California) is amazing to me."

Fans initially resisted buying higher-priced tickets, partly because those seats are the least expensive for baseball games in the 56,000-seat stadium. Collins said tickets were moving at an encouraging pace.

"The expectation is we are going to be sold out," he said.

The game has a Hollywood feel to it. Among celebrities scheduled to attend: Wayne Gretzky, Yasiel Puig, Will Ferrell, Jason Bateman, Alyssa Milano, Matthew Perry, Cuba Gooding Jr., Pat Sajak, Brian Wilson, Tommy Lasorda and Kerri Walsh.

After six Winter Classics, officials have unwavering faith in NHL ice guru Dan Craig's ability to keep the ice at 24 degrees for playing purposes.

"There are always issues that have to be worked out," Collins said. "But Dan was 100% confident he could handle any issue thrown his way."

Collins said Craig had dealt with 81-degree nights and adjusted accordingly.

The NHL has used insulated blankets to cover the ice during the day.

And it helps that the game will be starting after sunset.

"I think weather-wise it's going to be similar to playing in an arena," Kings forward Justin Williams said. "The sun won't be beating on you. Temperature-wise, I don't think there is anything to worry about."

Williams said most players would have 10 or 12 family members at the game, the first in the NHL's Stadium Series. The league has games set for New York's Yankee Stadium on Sunday and Wednesday and another at Chicago's Soldier Field on March 1.

"It will probably be a little bit over the top, but it's going to be something you remember," Williams said.

It helps that the Ducks are the NHL's No. 1 team and the Kings won a Stanley Cup in 2012.

"There has been a large buzz in the hockey community -- locally, nationally and internationally -- about how this game is going to work," Kings chief operating officer Kelly Cheeseman said.

He added: "I don't think anyone would have envisioned 50,000 people gathering to watch a hockey game before Wayne Gretzky got here in 1988."

The Kings were pioneers when Gretzky and Co. played an outdoor exhibition game in Las Vegas in 1991.

"I played in that game, and we thought it was great. But once it was over, we never thought we would see (it) again," Kings President Luc Robitaille said. "So this is going to be wild."

California hockey has come a long way from the days when Jack Kent Cooke had trouble attracting fans after landing the expansion Kings in 1967.

"Hopefully he is looking down and smiling," Cheeseman said.

 

January 24, 2014

 

 
 

 

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