The key to winning an outdoor game may be keeping things simple

Photo credit:Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA Today Sports
Ryan Pike
8 months ago
Edmonton Oilers forward Derek Ryan will join an exclusive club on Sunday when he takes part in the 2023 Heritage Classic. He’s one of just three players to dress for both Calgary and Edmonton in a Heritage Classic – alongside Milan Lucic and Cam Talbot – and one of just two to participate in the games, as Talbot merely dressed as the Flames’ backup during the 2019 edition.
So we figured we’d pick Ryan’s brain a bit about the unique challenges of playing an NHL game in a very unique, often unpredictable, setting.
Following Saturday’s Oilers practice at Commonwealth Stadium, we asked Ryan about what the ideal weather conditions.
“I think the temperature that we’ve had today and that’s forecasted for tomorrow should be pretty ideal,” said Ryan. “I remember playing in Regina there. It was really cold. That made it pretty hard. But honestly once you get out there and you’re skating around it’s just a hockey game. It’s a unique experience, but right around freezing there should be pretty ideal for us.”
We often hear NHL clubs talking about playing a simple, direct game of hockey. When they head outdoors, the combination of often low temperatures and unique ice conditions seem to lend themselves to simple, direct plays rather than fancy ones.
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“For myself, yeah, I think that a simple game’s going to be the best way, the best tactics,” said Ryan. “A lot of short passes. The puck’s going to bouncing a little bit, rolling up on edge, it gets really snowy, like I said. So, some moves and some stick-handling you’re probably not going to be able to do. Some passes, some soft passes that aren’t going to land very flat. You’re going to see a lot of crashing and banging I guess you could say.”
That “keep it simple” philosophy could explain a phenomenon that emerged in the Flames’ two Heritage Classic appearances in 2011 and 2019: a lot of shots on goal, for both teams.
“I think so, especially in a big event like this you’re trying to keep it simple anyways, regardless of the ice quality,” said Ryan. “But I think that just adds to it where you’re trying to throw pucks on net, trying to get lucky.”
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