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Risk, reward in California outdoor game

Updated: May 7, 2013, 11:24 AM ET
By Craig Custance

The first time Bruce Boudreau coached in an outdoor hockey game, it was like nothing he'd ever experienced in the NHL. In 2011, his Washington Capitals played the Pittsburgh Penguins in a Winter Classic that is among the most memorable of any held. The rivalry between the two teams was highlighted on HBO, as were the struggles in Washington at the time.

Every day seemed to bring a new storyline as the game moved closer. When it was all done, Boudreau was overwhelmed with just how many people were captivated by it all.

"I loved being involved in it," Boudreau said when we chatted last week about the coming outdoor game in California. "I don't know if I'll ever be involved in another one like that. With the '24/7' and stuff like that. I was totally blown away with how many people watched that and came up to me and talked about."

He compared the build-up to the game to the two-week anticipation of the Super Bowl. At one point, he said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told him that the Winter Classic had become as big as the Stanley Cup final.

Having experienced it, he believed it.

"I don't know if I'll ever be involved in another one like that," he said.

And that's the challenge with the NHL's coming Stadium Series. Fairly or unfairly, they'll be compared to the Winter Classic, which is an incredibly high bar to reach.


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