LOS ANGELES (AP) — Teemu Selanne skated off the ice and walked to the visitors' dugout at Dodger Stadium, rubbing the eye black on his cheekbones in disbelief beneath the Southern California sky.
"If somebody would tell me 10 years ago that we were going to do this, I would have said they're crazy," Selanne said. "But we have the technology to do it now, and it's pretty great."
Dodger Stadium isn't a field of dreams for many hockey players, but the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks are thrilled by the chance to play the NHL's most unlikely outdoor game on Saturday.
Both teams got their only practice on the ice Friday under clouds and cooler temperatures than the recent string of 80-degree days. The local rivals came away fairly impressed with the ice sheet in place for the league's first warm-weather stadium game.
Although outdoor humidity and heat are bound to cause some slush and steaminess on the ice, it's nothing these teams can't handle when the puck drops well after sundown.
"It was a little better than I thought it was going to be," Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell said. "It's warm, but it's L.A. You're going to get cooler temperatures at game time, and that's going to help us out."
Speed and slick passing could be difficult on a naturally choppy surface, but the Ducks and Kings are confident they'll adjust to much the same challenges faced in every outdoor game — only without the snow. Los Angeles defenseman Robyn Regehr noticed he couldn't stop sweating after the opening minutes of practice, while Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller plans to pay special attention to hydration.
"It'll be very hot, and probably a lot of guys will be cramping up with the loss of fluids," Ducks forward Dustin Penner said. "The ice is a little sticky, sounds a little hollow, but it looks better than at other outdoor games."
The game counts for two points in the standings, but the players realize they've also got to enjoy this improbable moment. The teams skated with friends and family after their practices while workers put the final touches on the unique accoutrements for California's outdoor game.
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf got his son on skates for the first time in his life — at least until he started crying inconsolably.
"It's amazing to get to play in an outdoor game, but I'm really glad I don't have to wear a toque and mittens," said Getzlaf, who grew up playing outdoors in Saskatchewan. "Obviously, the weather is a little different than what I'm used to, but that's great."
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