Brett Pesce stood on the sidelines at Carter-Finley Stadium last fall for an N.C. State football game and had a thought: Wonder how a hockey rink will look?
The Carolina Hurricanes defenseman was looking ahead to the 2023 Stadium Series outdoor game, which had been announced and scheduled by the NHL. The date had been set and the opponent, the Washington Capitals, named.
Still, Pesce could only guess what it would be like when Carter-Finley was transformed, the rink actually built and the game upon them?
Pesce got his first answers Friday as the Hurricanes put in an afternoon practice at Carter-Finley. It rained before the practice and the ice conditions weren’t entirely ideal, but Pesce and others probably had their pulses quicken a little with the game a day away.
“We’ve been looking forward to it, and I think it’s going to be cool,” Pesce said. “A lot of us haven’t played in front of 60,000 people so it will be special for the guys doing it for the first time.
“It’s something you definitely circle on your calendar at the beginning of the year. It’s cool it’s finally here. It’s been a long time coming and it should be fun.”
The comments of the Canes players about the ice conditions varied, some not pleased and others who said the conditions should improve and be fine by game time Saturday night.
“They weren’t too great but it is what it is,” Pesce said. “We’ll definitely keep it simple. Super simple.”
A bad bounce or bobbled puck could lead to a score that decides the Metropolitan Division game. It can make life miserable for the goalies. But it’s all part of it.
“I thought the ice held up pretty good for being rained on for an hour,” Canes captain Jordan Staal said.
Another part of practice day at the NHL’s outdoor games is traditionally having the players who have kids bring them on to the ice. The Canes did it Friday, then the Caps had their turn.
Staal played in two outdoor games with the Pittsburgh Penguins before his trade to Carolina in 2012 but did not have children at the time.
Staal now has three young kids, and they took to the rink. Staal smiled when asked how they did and said: “They were out there crying, saying they were cold and moving around and falling down and getting hurt. But for more me, personally, it was the coolest thing to share it with them.”
Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour admitted to being a little nervous a day before the big game, but not about the ice or the hype of the game or playing before a full stadium Saturday.
“I want to make sure we put on a good show for them,” he said Friday. “That’s what this is about, the little giveback to the community and the people who have supported this team for a long, long time. Hopefully it will be a great night for everybody.”