Bears prepare for outdoor hockey

HERSHEY, Pa. - The Bears are taking hockey back to where it all began ... outside.

The excitement was building on Thursday for the upcoming Outdoor Classic at Hersheypark Stadium, as the Bears got to practice on the outdoor rink for the first time.

"Just getting out here today is definitely a nice change after you're used to the same old," said Bears defenseman Tyler Lewington.  "Whevenever you get a chance like this, it's definitely special because you'll probably never get to do it again in your life."

Forward Chris Bourque agrees.

"It's definitely a lot different than playing inside, it feels a lot faster for some reason," said Bourque.  "It's going to be a fun atmosphere and a fun game."

Fun, yes.  But also challenging, since everything will be a little bit different, even the ice.

"It's kind of got that hollow feel to it, you can kind of hear it cracking under your feet when you're just gliding around," explained Bears center Zach Sill.  "It's windy and there's snow on the ice, it's piling off at one end, so it makes it interesting."

Sill isn't the only player who noticed the surface variations.

"There are a couple bumps here and there on the ice that you can't fix or change," said Bears defenseman Connor Hobbs.  "You just have to be a little tougher on the puck and make your passes a little crisper and harder."

Playing in his fourth outdoor game, Bears captain Garrett Mitchell already knows what to expect.  So his advice for the younger guys is simple.

"Enjoy it, because it doesn't happen very often," said Mitchell.  "And for us to have it happen at home, in our 80th season, this is pretty special."

The Outdoor Classic kicks off Friday night with an alumni game featuring NHL legends like Ray Bourque and Eric Lindros.

Then on Saturday night, the Bears will take on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.