NHL set to add to Dodger Stadium lore
Kings-Ducks square off in league's first West Coast outdoor game
LOS ANGELES -- Can you honestly say you saw The Beatles at Dodger Stadium? The Pope? The Boss?
Another of those priceless non-baseball spectacles is upon us, as 52-year-old Dodger Stadium will host the NHL's 2014 Coors Light Stadium Series game on Saturday night between the Southland rival Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks in the first regular-season West Coast outdoor game in league history. The event will be televised by NBC Sports Network.
"It's the most anticipated non-baseball sporting event in Dodger Stadium history, although for some it's easier to imagine playing golf on the moon instead of outdoor ice hockey in Southern California," said Mark Langill, the Dodgers' team historian.
The novelty wasn't lost on 41-year-old Ducks forward Teemu Selanne, who retires after this season and was the last man off the ice during Friday's workout.
"I know this will be really special for me," he said. "It's different for me than the other guys. The first time I've had this chance. I know it's my last year and I want to enjoy every day."
While the game counts in the standings and matters to two of the better clubs in the Western Conference, one of the most anticipated moments will come right after the puck drops and the press-box announcer says:
"Game-time temperature is ...."
The forecast for Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. PT is 66 degrees. An unseasonably balmy winter, even for Southern California, has made for tough sledding in ice-rink management. The sport was never meant to be played in Santa Ana wind conditions, so NHL official Dan Craig has been sweating out the past two weeks of preparation, even though the 53-foot, 300-ton refrigeration truck has kept the sheet of ice icy, an elaborate system removing the heat to stabilize the temperature and ensure player safety.
Whether the ice is frozen or melted, the game already is a box-office hit with an anticipated attendance of 50,000. TV cameras will pan the expensive seats for Hollywood "A-listers," while the Dodgers will be represented by stealth hockey aficionado Yasiel Puig.
Both teams gave the rink a test skate Friday, the "home" Kings emerging from the Dodgers' dugout at 4 p.m. under hazy skies and a temperature of 72 degrees.
Forward Kyle Clifford described the ice as "slushier" than he hoped. Defenseman Robyn Rogehr said, "I've played on a lot worse."
Coach Darryl Sutter had the broadest frame of reference from which to draw.
"It won't be much different than games we played in April and May in old buildings before air conditioning," he said. "We've all played on ice that's less than great."
Sutter echoed the concern of some players that the weather will be tougher on them than the ice.
"It's hot and humid out there," he said. "Guys have to hydrate and make sure they're not cramping and that type of thing."
The Ducks hit the ice at 6:15 p.m. Friday, the thermometer backing off to 64 degrees and the ice holding up well.
"It's pretty amazing they are actually able to do it," said Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller. "Sometimes I pinch myself that it's actually happening -- a once-in-a-lifetime thing."
In addition to the ambitious ice rink, which runs from just past each dugout and out to shallow outfield, the field has been transformed into a multi-entertainment center.
There's a beach volleyball court (of course) in left field, a "duck" pond in right-center, a concert stage in right field where KISS will perform, a roller-hockey rink between the mound and home plate, and a mini stage between home plate at the backstop screen that will feature performances from recording artist Jordin Sparks and singer/songwriter John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting. NHL Network has erected a studio on scaffolding in the Dodgers bullpen.
"It's such an iconic stadium," said Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy. "It's so cool. Nothing I did as a kid was as cool as skating at Dodger Stadium. It's crazy, nothing any of us thought would ever happen."
The first-place Ducks are doing better than the sixth-place Kings lately, as Los Angeles has lost 10 of its last 14 games, including Thursday night's 2-1 loss to the Ducks in Anaheim. Back-to-back games between teams can breed tension, so you never know when a bonus fight could break out.
That can only help this game land on Langill's Top 10 "Unique Events at Dodger Stadium" list, which follows:
1. Pope John Paul II Celebrates Mass (Sept. 16, 1987) -- Highest attendance in stadium history (63,000).
2. The Beatles (Aug. 28, 1966) -- The first concert, still the most memorable, as the Fab Four "escapes" in an armored car.
3. The Three Tenors (July 16, 1994) -- Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti perform concert in association with World Cup final.
4. Elton John (Oct. 25-26, 1975) -- Two sold-out concerts produce the most memorable version of a Dodgers jersey, complete with sequins.
5. Globetrotters (Feb. 2, 1964) -- A basketball court on the infield features the famous basketball ambassadors, along with a preliminary basketball game between the Dodgers and the NFL's Chicago Bears.
6. Jackson Tour (1984) -- Six concerts between Nov. 30 and Dec. 9; the finale to the first and only "Victory Tour" that featured all six Jackson brothers.
7. Elvis Presley (1966) -- The King performs at Dodger Stadium, filming simulated racing scenes in the parking lots for the movie "Spinout."
8. The Ski Jump (Oct. 25-27, 1963) -- "Let it snow" -- a 165-foot ski jump was built in right field for an international ski show.
9. East-West Major League Baseball Classic (March 28, 1970) -- Exhibition during Spring Training honors the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King.
10. Madonna (Nov. 6, 2008) -- "Sticky and Sweet Tour" L.A. stop includes surprise appearances by Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.