When then-Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jose Theodore donned a toque over his goalie mask at the Commonwealth Classic in Edmonton in 2003, it wasn’t just to start a trend.
The temperature was minus 20 degrees Celsius for that outdoor game and Theodore wasn't trying to make a fashion statement but simply looking to keep warm. In that game, and during the last two Winter Classics in Buffalo (2008) and Chicago (2009), the goalies have had the hardest time keeping warm during the games.
"It was cold, that's for sure," recalls Bruins winger Michael Ryder, a member of that Habs team. "But we were OK because we had heaters on the bench. We actually had to turn them down a few times because we were getting hot, but the goalies had it rough, because they weren't able to come over to the bench that much. I don't really remember what they did. Probably long underwear, I guess."
"It was cold, especially for goalies," Theodore told the media recently. "We had to stay there for 20 minutes and couldn’t really use those heaters on the bench."
The heaters were also a big help because it was able to keep the equipment warm, which was an issue for Theodore.
"Especially with equipment, you sweat and there was ice all over the place," Theodore said. "I played with gloves under my blocker and catcher and you know a lot of times you couldn’t feel the puck. So a lot of times you would make a save but you didn’t know if you had it because you’re equipment is so stiff."
Current St. Louis Blues goaltender Ty Conklin, who started the Commonwealth Classic for the Edmonton Oilers and then the 2008 (Pittsburgh) and 2009 (Detroit) Winter Classics told the media prior to the last Winter Classic that the key for goalies, especially if they’re not seeing a lot of action during the game, is to keep moving.
"Once you get moving, the cold doesn't become quite the issue that it would normally, especially when you get the game going and you get a little bit of adrenaline going, too," Conklin said in an interview last December. "It becomes a little bit more indoor hockey than you think."
Bruins goalie Tim Thomas doesn’t know exactly how he will combat the cold, but he agreed that he probably will have it tougher than his teammates on the Fenway Park ice.
"You know I’ll prepare as much as I can but there’s only so much you can do," he said. "I’m jealous of the position players but you deal with it. You get into your zone and block it out if you can."
Bruins forward Milan Lucic got to take a whirl on the Fenway rink before the rest of his teammates with a group of Bruins alumni and legends on Dec. 18. Lucic admitted he was cold and knows he will be on New Year’s Day, but he agreed that goalies will suffer the worst.
"Man, I’m cold out here but at least I’ll be able to go to the bench after a shift," Lucic said. "Those poor goalies, I don’t know. We’ll have to find ways to help them."
NESN.com's James Murphy will answer one Winter Classic question every day leading up to the event.
Saturday, Dec. 26: Cam Neely wishes he had chance to play in Winter Classic.
Monday, Dec. 28: Will the elements be a factor? What is the forecast for New Year’s Day?