When he came to the podium for the postgame presser, Barry Trotz did not even wait for the first question to be asked before he began praising the Naval Academy for the job it did in hosting the Stadium Series.
"Before you ask me a question, I just want to thank the Navy, the NHL, and special thanks to all the guys who are working on the rink," he said. "The conditions were excellent considering the wind and all that the last few days."
Conditions were a concern leading up to the game as heavy winds had forced the teams to cancel Friday's practices and Saturday's morning skates. That meant the first time either team had an opportunity to skate on the playing surface was in pregame warmups.
For the actual game, however, neither the weather nor the playing surface had any negative impact.
"Conditions were great," Matt Niskanen said. "I don't think the wind was really a factor that much. Ice was awesome."
When comparing the ice to his previous outdoor experiences, Nicklas Backstrom had only good things to say.
"I honestly thought this ice was the best I've played on. It was really good and wasn't any cracks in it or anything."
But the ice alone was not what made Saturday special.
WIth the Naval Academy as the venue, the entire event had a military theme to it which the NHL fully embraced. The field was decorated so that the ice surface lay on the deck of an aircraft carrier. The Maple Leafs were introduced behind the pipes and drums of the 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group playing "The Maple Leaf Forever." The Caps, meanwhile, were led by the United States Naval Academy Pipes and Drums who were playing the theme song to the movie Top Gun.
"I heard it this morning and I think I'm not too young for that movie," Tom Wilson said. "I've seen that numerous times and it's a classic so that definitely gets the feels going."
While the event provided a unique experience for the fans, it was also very different for the players as well.
Outdoor games are typically a celebration of the sport, hearkening to a player's days as a kid playing the game outside. Saturday's Stadium Series for the players, however, was more about celebrating the hosts.
"Right at the start the anthem and the planes going over and seeing some of our service people," Trotz said, "Obviously all the Midshipmen all around the rink, and you're looking at these young men who serve us and give us the privilege to do what we get to do, the freedoms that we have.
"And today my coaching moment was actually not on the ice but underneath when I was running into some of those Midshipmen and asking where they were or where they're from, what they were -- what areas of the Navy they were sort of focused in on. That was probably my greatest moment today is meeting some of the young people who are serving our country."
"To be a part of the tradition and for them to welcome us and the Navy to host us, it's something you'll always remember," Wilson said.
"Those are the people that are going to be serving and protecting our country and all the tradition," he added. "It's awesome for them to let us be a part of it for a night and it's nice to get a win for them and hopefully they had a good time as well."
In addition to celebrating the military, the gold-medal winning men's curling team and women's hockey team were also honored at the game.
There were only two blights on what was otherwise a spectacular evening. First, the stadium was not filled to capacity. Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium can hold 34,000, but the announced attendance was less than 30,000. Second, at the 10-minute mark in the third period when both teams were switching sides of the rink, the stadium lights suddenly lost power.
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Play was delayed for about 15 minutes until the lights were brought back on. What could have been an embarrassing moment, however, turned into one of the more memorable scenes of the night as fans pulled out their cell phones to light the stands. Music continued playing and the remaining fans celebrated with an impromptu dance party.
Besides the two minimal blips, the entire event was a phenomenal experience for fan and player (and media) alike.
"They put on an amazing show for everyone and they're phenomenal hosts," Wilson said. "It was our home game, but it kind of felt like we were visitors too. They made us feel at home and that's a pretty special feeling, standing there with the bagpipes and the jet going over and the anthems. I think everyone had a smile on their face and it's something you'll never forget."