While playing outdoors has been mostly a childhood memory for practically all of the Washington Capitals, winger Jason Chimera has a more recent recollection of that experience from his days with the Edmonton Oilers, who participated in the league's first regular season outdoor game in 2003 as part of the Heritage Classic.
The game against the Montreal Canadiens took place on Nov. 22 before a crowd of 57,167 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta. Montreal won, 4-3, in a game played with a wind chill that reached minus-20.
Temperatures aren't expected to be nearly that frigid when Washington plays Pittsburgh on Saturday at Heinz Field in the Winter Classic.
"It was pretty damn cold in Edmonton when I played," Chimera said. "Freezing our [butts] off. Lucky, I didn't play much back then. The benches were heated, so it was nice."
In the Heritage NHL game, which commemorated the 25th anniversary of Edmonton joining the NHL and the 20th anniversary of the Oilers' first Stanley Cup victory in 1984, Montreal's Richard Zednik, formerly of the Capitals, scored the opening goal. Starting in goal for Montreal was former Capitals goalie Jose Theodore, who famously wore a Canadiens tuque over the top of his mask.
"I remember it like it was yesterday," Chimera said. "It's a great event. It's something as a player, not many people can say they played some of these games, especially two of them, so it's going to be pretty special. It's a special event, and it's a cool thing what the NHL did with that. It's a fun time."