NEW YORK – Four years ago, Buffalo Sabres forward Evan Rodrigues was injured when Boston University participated in “Frozen Fenway,” an outdoor game at the historic ballpark.
At first, Rodrigues held out some hope he would return in time. Then the college junior realized he would miss the special tilt.
“At the time, (it was) heartbreaking, because you always want to play in something like this,” Rodrigues said today after the Sabres prepared for Monday’s Winter Classic at Citi Field. “I think this tops it.”
To a man, the Sabres are excited – most couldn’t stop smiling – to play outdoors against the New York Rangers. Some have been through this before. Winger Jason Pominville played in the first Winter Classic in Orchard Park 10 years ago. Heck, winger Benoit Pouliot is about to play in his fifth outdoor contest.
Still, for others like Rodrigues, 24, playing a game outdoors never seemed real.
“It’s funny to say, but you don’t even really dream about something like this because you think it’s never going to really happen,” Rodrigues said. “There’s only one a year, Winter Classic at least. It didn’t really set in until I stepped out on the ice this morning.”
Skating outside at the home of the New York Mets took Rodrigues back to his childhood growing up outside Toronto.
“It brings you back to when you were a kid and actually playing outdoors, how you feel,” he said. “I can’t even explain the feeling, you honestly feel like a kid again. You’re just having fun, enjoying it, trying to take it all in.”