2022 Winter Classic will live up to marquee game, Wild alumni say

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MINNEAPOLIS — Ryan Carter and Thomas Vanek picked a perfect day to visit Target Field, the site of the 2022 Discover NHL Winter Classic.

Amid a light snowfall, the two former NHL players were on hand to see the Minnesota Twins baseball stadium being prepared for the outdoor hockey game between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues on Jan. 1 (7 p.m. ET; TNT, SN1, TVAS, NHL LIVE).

“Boy, you just hope you get a setting like this,” Carter said. “I don’t think we’re going to have to be concerned about ice conditions at all. … Certainly beautiful.”

 

[RELATED: More 2022 NHL Winter Classic coverage]

 

Carter, who played 473 games over nine NHL seasons and is a native of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, played for the Wild in the 2016 Stadium Series against the Chicago Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus on Feb. 21, 2016, and in the 2014 Stadium Series with the New Jersey Devils against the New York Rangers at Yankee Stadium on Jan. 26, 2014. 

“It’s cold out [today] but it kind of brings back the warm and fuzzies of TCF and playing at Yankee Stadium, that was a blast,” Carter said. “I think in the states, Minnesota really prides itself on enduring the outdoors and cold and hockey being the ‘it’ thing. For the NHL to be here, the Winter Classic, the marquee game of the day, I think Minnesotans are going to do a heck of a job supporting the club. They’re going to show up in full force. I don’t think you’ll see any complaints about the conditions, they’ll be ready to endure.”

Vanek played two seasons with the University of Minnesota, and spent two of his 14 NHL seasons with the Wild. Of his 1,029 games in the NHL, four were outdoors, including with the Buffalo Sabres against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the inaugural Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Jan. 1, 2008.

Video: Target Field Winter Classic rink time lapse

“You have that family day or practice day where kids come out and [your] wife comes out and family and friends and you get pictures, it makes it special for the players,” Vanek said. “But you adapt quickly the next day. At warmups you look around and get excited for it, but once the puck is dropped you battle for those two points.”

Especially when it’s against a Central Division rival, Carter said. 

“Just like when you’re playing outside as a kid, you want to get that final one, you want to win,” Carter said. “Now you want to win on that big stage. … You’re going to play to win. 

“Walking out from your locker room to the ice surface with that gladiator effect, people everywhere and you’re the show … It takes a couple minutes to settle down, but for sure by the first TV timeout everyone’s in game mode and you’re out there battling.”

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