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The Two-Minute Guide to the NHL Winter Classic

It’s outdoor hockey time! The Blackhawks brave the elements at Notre Dame in front of their largest crowd ever.

Illustration by Ryan Inzana Illustration: Ryan Inzana

What It Is

The 11th annual outdoor match pits the Hawks against the Boston Bruins on New Year’s Day at Notre Dame, which is only the second college to host a Winter Classic. (The first was the University of Michigan in 2014, where 105,000 spectators set an NHL attendance record.) With a capacity of over 77,000, Notre Dame Stadium could see the league’s second-largest crowd.

Outdoor Advantage

The Blackhawks have played outside five other times but won just once: against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a below-freezing, snow-piled 2014 game at Soldier Field. Still, on the whole, this Hawks team has more outdoor experience than the Bruins.

The Stadium

South Bend’s Notre Dame Stadium has long been on the NHL’s wish list of Winter Classic venues, but after a $400 million renovation, completed last year, added three adjacent buildings for more hospitality space, the deal was sealed. It probably didn’t hurt that Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman is an alum or that the Hawks have held several training camps at the school’s ice arena in recent years. This will be only the second major nonfootball affair held at the stadium.

The Rink

It takes about two weeks and hundreds of workers to install the temporary rink. Here’s how:

1 About 240 ice pans (each 30 by 340 inches) get laid down, then pumped with coolant to bring them to 22 degrees.

2 Hoses spray 20,000 gallons of water in a fine mist to ensure smooth, even freezing. A 300-ton refrigeration trailer onsite makes sure the two-inch ice (double the thickness of indoor rinks) stays frozen.

3 Over 17,000 square feet of plywood goes into creating an outer barrier sturdy enough for players to crash into.

Pregame Activities

In the three days leading up to the game, Millennium Park will host the Winter Classic fest. Picture a winter wonderland infused with a shot of hockey: kiosks selling limited-edition jerseys and live music are expected. (Alas, no alumni game this year.) Before the puck drops, the NHL will do its version of the Notre Dame game-day tradition where players walk to the field along a fan-lined route from the basilica on campus.

How to Get There

Train: The South Shore Line runs from Millennium Station to South Bend’s airport, which is 15 minutes by taxi or shuttle to campus.

Shuttle: For $150, Lincoln Park’s Racine Plumbing Bar & Grill (2642 N. Lincoln Ave.) will give you breakfast, a seat on its 7 a.m. coach bus, and entry to a stadium tailgate party.

How to Watch

In person: Tickets range from $85 to $480 (ticketmaster.com) and are expected to sell out.

On TV: NBC coverage starts at noon.

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