Since opening its gates in March 2009, new Yankee Stadium has hosted baseball games (duh), soccer matches, college football games (the annual Pinstripe Bowl), a boxing match (the “Stadium Slugfest” in 2010), and several concerts including Jay-Z, Eminem, Paul McCartney, Justin Timberlake and Madonna. Now, the House that Steinbrenner Built will host hockey for the first time with the arrival of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.
Just 11 days before the two-game series set for January 26 (New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils) and January 29 (Rangers vs. New York Islanders), the National Hockey League officially took over Yankee Stadium on Wednesday afternoon with the arrival of the NHL Ice Truck. The 53-foot trailer houses the state-of-the-art ice-making and ice-monitoring equipment used to create an NHL-caliber sheet of ice.
At the Stadium to greet the NHL Ice Truck and the media were New York Rangers players Carl Hagelin and Mats Zuccarello, New Jersey Devils alumnus Grant Marshall, and Jean Potvin representing the New York Islanders. (Current Devils and Islanders players weren’t available to attend because the teams are on the road).
Hagelin, who participated in the 2012 NHL Winter Classic and played at the University of Michigan and played in two major college games outdoors — one at Camp Randall Stadium against Wisconsin and another at the Big House against rival Michigan State — can’t wait to take the ice outside at Yankee Stadium.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to play here at Yankee Stadium,” Hagelin said. “Obviously we’re not going to play here as baseball players, but we can play here as hockey players. Everyone is excited to get going. I’ve been here to watch a couple of baseball games, I know the history here with the Yankees and the great tradition so for me I was really excited and the fact that we’re going to play two games is even better.”
It will be Hagelin’s first non-baseball experience at the Stadium. He’s attended Yankee games in the past and recalled his first visit to the ballpark.
“My first game here was three years ago,” Hagelin said. “The Yankees won. I don’t remember who they played. We went down to the Legends area and had lots of good food.”
In addition to the excitement about playing outside in front of a rabid New York crowd, Hagelin also appreciates being part of the efforts to broaden the sport’s appeal through initiatives like the Winter Classic and the Stadium Series. The Stadium Series will also travel to Dodger Stadium (January 25 – Ducks vs. Kings) and Soldier Field (March 1 – Penguins vs. Blackhawks)
“I think they’ve been doing a great job over the past couple of years of finding new fans and expanding hockey in general in North America,” Hagelin said. “Anytime you can be a part of that and help this sport grow, you want to do that.”
Zuccarello, who hasn’t played outdoor hockey as a professional, echoed his teammate’s excitement about the game coming to Yankee Stadium.
“It’s really nice to bring some hype to the NHL,” Zuccarello said. “Playing outside takes you back to [your childhood]. Almost everyone has played hockey outside at one moment of their life it’s for sure something special and hopefully brings some new fans and it’s nice to take care of our regular fans. I think it’s going to be enjoyable for everyone — for the players and the fans.”
NBC will broadcast all games of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.
All photos and video via Amanda Rykoff.