Tony Esposito would probably suit up and be part of the Chicago Blackhawks’ March 1 game at Soldier Field if he could. Heck, he’d probably even risk wearing that old-school mask again.
“It’s 61,000 (fans); that’s 40,000 more than would have booed me,” said Esposito on Tuesday. “I’d love it. It would just be the highlight of a guy’s career. It’s very rare to be involved in something which could be so much fun. You’re going to have 60-70,000 people in the building. That adds to it. It’s great for the NHL, great exposure, and great for Chicago.”
The NHL’s refrigeration truck rolled into Chicago and to Soldier Field, where preparations will soon begin for the Blackhawks-Pittsburgh Penguins game here on March 1. The contest wraps up the league’s Stadium Series for this season, which has proven to be a success. Esposito will likely be one of those spectators on that night. But the outdoor game, be it this one or those he’s watched earlier this season, brought up childhood memories of pond and outdoor-rink hockey.
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When the snow started to fall at one it just reminded me of when I was a kid. You’re out there playing, the puck gets lost in the snow and stuff like that. It was just a lot of fun. The guys all love it, I know that,” said Esposito. “We had a couple of rinks that we made ourselves (in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario). We actually had a rink that had lights and boards outside. That was the big-time for us, to play in a rink with boards around us instead of snow banks.”
The outdoor games seem to bring out the kid in many of the players partaking in them. It brings them back to their backyards, the nearby ponds or their neighborhood outdoor rinks. Esposito will be watching along with the rest of us, reliving some childhood outdoor hockey memories of his own.
“The atmosphere is different. First, you’re colder. Second, that cold air is going in your lungs and it reminds me of when I was a kid; that’s all we had,” Esposito said. “But once you’re on the ice to start the game, the intensity gets picked up because you’re playing for two points. It’s exciting and it’s a great showcase for the NHL.”