The NHL lockout forced the league’s annual Winter Classic to be cancelled this year, but half way across the globe, hockey is still alive outdoors.
KHL Medveščak will head to Šalata on Friday night where they will participate in the 2013 Šalata Winter Classic, and play an outdoor match against the Vienna Capitals. The last time these two teams met outdoors was at Pula Arena earlier in the season. The Bears defeated the Caps 4-1. This also marks the second time these teams have met in the Winter Classic. Medveščak’s debut season in the EBEL in 2009 brought on a tough match up between the two and the Bears came out victorious.
Last year’s Winter Classic was played in bitter cold temperatures, but this year’s forecast calls for clear skies and temperatures reaching the mid to upper 40’s.
“These are completely different conditions from last season,” Medveščak coach Marty Raymond said. “They’re similar to the ones in Pula. Maybe that will be an advantage for us because we beat Vienna under these conditions.”
The Bears are still in the midst of a tough positioning race for the playoffs. Vienna are currently in first, six points ahead of third-place Medveščak. Both teams are determined to win the full two points, but the Bears have the support of their fans on their side.
Stadion Šalata has a capacity of about about 5,000, but the atmosphere will be electric.
“It’s a very special night under the stars, beneath the lights, and with the loud fans who show up in the stands well ahead of the game. It really adds to the atmosphere,” said Bears captain Alan Letang, who will be participating in his fourth Winter Classic tonight.
The EBEL will take a short break after the Winter Classic for international duty. The season will return on February 13, when the Bears replay the Capitals in Vienna.
The game can be streamed here live and for free.