The last time Brian Gibbons played in an outdoor hockey game, he stood in front of a sold out crowd at Fenway Park, under the lights with snow falling.
Earlier in the day, during practice, Gibbons and his Boston College teammates shot pucks at the Green Monster and soaked in the opportunity of just being able to play hockey inside the historic century-old ballpark. His team lost the 2010 Frozen Fenway game to Boston University, 3-2, but it didn't dampen Gibbons' experience.
It's something I'll never forget, he said. We were in awe.
When the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins take to the ice on Sunday to battle the Bears outdoors at Hershey Park Stadium, Gibbons expects a similar feeling.
It's definitely something you look forward to, he said. You never know when you'll get another chance to play outdoors at this level. A real game outdoors, that counts, is certainly special.
But Gibbons isn't the only Penguin to have two chances to play a game in an outdoor venue.
Rookie forward Dominik Uher played outside two years ago when he was in juniors with the Spokane Chiefs.
Like Gibbons, Uher is thankful for a second chance to play in such a unique setting.
You're lucky to play in an outdoor game once. To do it twice, I'm fortunate, he said.
While the excitement of playing outdoors will likely dominate the emotions of the players leading into the game, Gibbons doesn't think it will be an issue once the puck drops.
After the first shift or two, he said, the focus transitions from the hype leading up to the event to the game itself.
And the fact that the game is against the rival Bears will only intensify that focus.
I'm sure, being that it's against Hershey, everyone will be going all out and flying around, Gibbons said.
Still, there are some things that can add a level of unpredictability as the game progresses.
Weather tops the list.
Gibbons said the weather dictates what kind of plays can be attempted, while Uher said it can change from one period to the next.
Maybe it starts sunny in the first period, and by the second period it's raining or snowing, he said, recalling how the weather affected the ice conditions when he played outdoors in Washington.
The ice conditions weren't as good so you had to keep it simple. We scored 11 goals and they were all by dumping it in and going to the crease for shots. The puck was bouncing all over the ice.
Head coach John Hynes was behind the bench for outdoor games while his U.S. National team traveled through Europe. The ice can be harder and bumpier, he said, while the cold air adds another new element.
It's like if you go outside to run, the air's a little more harsher and bitter when you breathe, Hynes said. You're equipment might feel a little stiffer and your hands may be cold under your gloves.
Uher agreed with the cold air part, and recalled how cold the wind felt when he played outdoors.
Be prepared to feel the wind when you sit on the bench. And if you're sweating, it will make you even colder, he said.
But that wasn't the only advice Uher had for his teammates who will be playing outdoors for the first time.
Have fun and enjoy the moment, Uher said. It might be the only time in your life that you'll do this.
Pittsburgh returned forwards Beau Bennett and Jayson Megna to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Thursday. Bennett was leading the team in scoring before being called up to attend Pittsburgh's training camp, while Megna has three goals and six points in 19 games. Both players scored goals in Wednesday's Black & Gold game - Bennett connected in the first period while Megna's came during the shootout.
Also on Thursday, Pittsburgh placed defenseman Brian Strait on waivers. If no other club picks him up by Friday at noon Strait will return to Wilkes-Barre. The other call-ups - Eric Tangradi, Simon Despres and Robert Bortuzzo, remain in Pittsburgh's training camp.
Outdoor Classic Schedule
Police Game, 6:30 p.m. at Ice Rink at Coal Street
Alumni Game, 3 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton vs. Hershey, 5 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium