Avoiding Freezing at the World Junior Hockey Championship Outdoor Hockey Game

A week ago I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Canada vs USA game at the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championship!

You may remember that last year I volunteered when this tournament was held in Toronto.  You can find my post about that experience HERE, or watch some “behind the scenes” LIVE videos in the ACC Visitor’s Locker Room, taking to the Ice as a Toronto Maple Leaf, or a tour of the Trophy Room at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

This year the tournament was held just 2 hours away in Buffalo, New York.  Most of the games were being held at the KeyBank Center, where the Buffalo Sabres call home.  The game I attended was one of the marquee games of the round-robin portion of the tournament, and was an outdoor game held at the Buffalo Bill’s home: New Era Field.

Fitting an Arena in a Stadium

It’s no surprise that an ice rink is smaller than a baseball or American football field, but to actually see how much of a difference is amazing.

The standard North American ice rink is 200 feet (61 m) × 85 feet (26 m) with a corner radius of 28 feet (8.5 m).

The standard American Football field is 120 yards (110 m) long and 53.33 yards (48.76 m) wide.

As you can see here, an ice rink fits very nicely inside a football field, with plenty of room to spare!  In my experience, the sight-lines for a hockey game are difficult to create in a football stadium.  Stadium seating rises vertically much more gradually than in a hockey arena, leaving you further from the action much more quickly. Notice in the picture that the first 8 rows or so are empty, as are the endzone sections.  This is not a lack of ticket sales, it’s be design because if you sat in those seats you’d have a lot of trouble seeing any of the hockey action!

Come Prepared!

With game-day temperature expected to be around -10 (14F) and a chance of snow, I spent more time than normal considering what I’d be wearing to the game.  Living in Canada, I’ve been outside in those conditions many times, but usually as part of a winter activity like tobogganing, walking my dog, or playing hockey.  Never before had I gone out just to stand on frozen concrete and sit on a plastic chair for 3 hours.  It was going to be COLD!

Thanks to my time volunteering last year, and a timely Christmas gift from my wife, I was 90% ready:

Base Layer:
I started with a set of light, moisture-wicking shirt and pants from Cool-Jams to ensure my skin stayed dry and comfortable.  On top of that I wore a NIKE Dry-Fit 1/4-zip shirt, and Fleece Velvet-lined pants from UNI-QLO.  Both of these items are super warm.  Plus the pants are stylish enough that I would have felt comfortable going just about anywhere for dinner after the game.  For my feet, I chose thin, moisture-wicking athletic socks (I prefer Puma’s), covered by thick cotton socks.

To keep my head warm, I chose my awesome World Juniors Nike touque.
For my neck I went with a thick cotton/nylon/wool-blend scarf from The GAP.
On my hands I wore Nike Cold-Weather Golf Mitts.  (SECRET TIP:  I learned this from the hockey players in last year’s tournament who did this under their hockey gloves.  Under the mittens I wore thin nylon gloves with rubber palms.  These not only kept my hands dry, but they allowed me to keep some of the dexterity I find I often lose with mittens).

Outer Layer:
The best volunteer garment I’ve ever received was this NIKE Storm-Fit winter coat.  It was part of the uniform for the transportation team at last year’s World Junior Hockey Championship tournament to combat having to be outside when dealing with team equipment and other duties.  This coat is amazing!  More than a few times during the game I found myself impressed by how warm my body was thanks to this coat, while those around me were complaining about the cold.

Why 90%?
As it turns out I don’t really have “winter boots” any more.  I have boots that have some thinsulate on the ankles to help combat the elements, but they’re not super warm if you’re going to be outside for a while.  Bad time to be reminded that I hadn’t replaced last year’s boots that developed a hole in the tread!  Luckily my dad had brought some XXXX.  They’re advertised as lasting for “up to 7 hours”, and I must say that they did a great job, and were still providing heat when I got home 4-5 hours later!

Game Time!

We know that hockey games are split into 3 periods, but for this game each period was like an individual game with it’s own climate and weather conditions!

For the first period the sun was out, it wasn’t too cold and the wind was light.  The game itself was fun to watch and you could tell the players were enjoying themselves.  It also helped that Canada was winning.

During the second period the dark clouds rolled in and the snow started causing havoc on the ice.  Just about every whistle they’d call for the crew to come out and shovel the ice!  The play itself wasn’t “great hockey”, but anyone who has played pond-hockey in the snow (as I have many times) can appreciate that they did a great job.

For the third period the snow died down, and the wind picked up.  After Team USA tied the game and it became evident that overtime would be required, we started counting down the time left to brave the elements before we could go thaw our bodies.  Team USA prevailed in a shootout (but Canada went on to win the tournament!).

In all, it was a great experience!  If you’re a hockey fan I highly recommend you attend one of these outdoor games at least once.  Immediately after the game I didn’t think I’d want to do this again, but looking back I think I’d gladly go to another one.  The atmosphere is an incredible reason why I feel that way.  Its not often you can watch a hockey game with 40,000+ other fans!

By the Numbers

This was the first ever outdoor game in World Junior Championship history.

The announced crowd of 44,592 is the largest ever crowd for a World Junior Hockey Championship game.

The temperature during the game was -9, with a wind-chill of -12 and a heavy snowfall during the second period causing a few extended delays as snow was removed from the ice.

USA won the game 4-3 after an overtime shootout.  It was the 8th time in the last 10 meetings between these teams that was decided by 1 goal.  Their previous meeting was in the gold medal game of last year’s tournament (also taken in a shootout buy Team USA).

What an incredible experience we had watching this outdoor game!  I’m so glad the organizers for this year’s World Junior Hockey Championship tournament decided to take a chance to make it happen.

Have you been to an outdoor hockey game, or other amazing sporting event?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments below…

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