Thursday morning at Yankee Stadium the National Hockey League, in conjunction with the NHLPA, the New York Yankees, and the Rangers, Islanders and Devils, formally announced that the Coors Light Stadium Series will be coming to the home of the Bronx Bombers on January 26, 2014 (Rangers vs. Devils) and January 29, 2014 (Rangers vs. Islanders). While it was already known that the three local metropolitan area teams would be playing outdoors this upcoming season in the most famous of all baseball stadiums, there was still a certain cool factor to being inside Yankee Stadium yesterday and gazing out, visualizing the rink in the middle of the field during the heart of winter, long after bats and balls have been packed away and months before the next baseball game would be played on the same historic diamond.
"Personally, being a Yankees fan, this is going to be a really cool experience," said Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, who was on hand along with defenseman Dan Girardi and assistant general manager Jeff Gorton to represent the Blueshirts at the press conference Thursday. "Playing in New York, in front of our own fans, with all of the history here. It's going to be great."
Added Girardi, "To be playing two of our biggest rivals in this stadium is going to be really cool. We had such a great experience two years ago (in the 2012 Winter Classic in Philadelphia), but this might be even more special."
So, not surprisingly, one of the things I learned yesterday is that two of the Rangers players think the pair of games they will play next January outdoors in Yankee Stadium will be "cool".
But what else did I learn?
Here's a short list of the important things I learned:
- Gorton said that the team and the representatives for RFA Derek Stepan had not spoken in the past couple of weeks regarding a new contract, but that he expected the two sides to get together again in the coming days
- Gorton was confident that a deal could be struck with Stepan before training camp gets underway on September 11th: "These things take time. I don't expect a deal done tomorrow, but we fully expect to get something done in time for camp. There's always a way to make a deal. It's definitely more difficult for us with the (Salary) Cap going down which really hasn't happened before, but that's upon us and the player to figure it out."
- Gorton also stated that the team and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will discuss a contract extension when Hank returns from Sweden in the coming days
- Callahan reported that his surgically-repaired shoulder is healing well and that he will begin shooting soon and that he will take part in training camp. However he is most concerned about contact, the ability to give and take hits---a major part of his game---before he is ready for any kind of game action, and he has no timetable for when he'll be ready for contact.
- Callahan said that he has spoken with new head coach Alain Vigneault only briefly, but understands the importance of the captain and coach building a strong relationship.
And here's the short list of the not so important things I learned:
- Girardi was once upon a time a power hitting first baseman, back in the day
- Callahan fancies himself as a very athletic shortstop
- Girardi's All-Rangers Home Run Derby lineup would have 1. Girardi, 2. Ryan McDonagh, 3. Mats Zuccarello--"There's a lot of power in that little body!"
- Bruce Beck, NBC Television sports anchor, and emcee of Thursday's press conference, was hot yesterday---as in sweating, roasting in the heat and humidity! Bruce seriously referenced the heat on more than one occasion, to say the least, yesterday!!
My take on these two outdoor games at Yankee Stadium? Like Cally and Girardi, I think it's really cool, and will be really special for the players, their families, and most of all for the fans. And to have these games take place the week of the Super Bowl, which will be played right here at MetLife Stadium, will give the NHL a terrific boost of positive media coverage, as well.
I'd finish by saying, see you in January, but there's way too much going on in Rangersland before then.
By the way less than five weeks before training camp!