There the St. Louis Blues were Saturday afternoon, one by one sporting their cabana wear and flip-flops while leaving their downtown Minneapolis hotel to board a bus for the short ride to Target Field. To heck with the bitter cold, the Blues were defiant in declaring they were ready for the extremes.
Awaiting them at the ballpark were the Wild and a sellout crowd for the 13th NHL Winter Classic, the first Jan. 1 outdoor showcase to be held in Minnesota and the coldest of the 33 outdoor games the NHL has put on, with an announced temperature of minus-5.7 degrees at puck drop.
"Walking off that bus, that's the quickest I've ever woken up for a game," Blues captain Ryan O'Reilly said. "You're just sitting there, 'Oh my gosh!' I was fully awake."
The game was mostly a day at the beach for the Blues, who spoiled Minnesota's outdoor hockey celebration with a 6-4 victory over the Wild. As the mercury continued to drop — reaching minus-10 in the third period — the Blues heated up, getting two goals and two assists in the second period from Jordan Kyrou and turning a 1-1 tie into a 6-2 lead through 40 minutes.
The Blues were playing around with a couple of ideas of attire leading up to the game, O'Reilly said. They considered lumberjack clothing but opted for the beachwear.
"We had a few ideas,'' O'Reilly said. "It was kind of a last-minute thing, and we hadn't planned that far ahead. We were kind of panicking. … We settled on beachwear.
"Everybody was talking about how cold it is,'' he added. "We thought it would good just to catch some sun and enjoy it.''
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington said the players decided on the attire on Friday, saying it would be something they would look back on and laugh when they are all 50. Still, he was prepared to bring the Paul Bunyan look, too.
"I actually ordered 30 lumberjack shirts two days before we left," Binnington said. "If anybody needs a lumberjack shirt, I've got a couple larges and XLs."
St. Louis forward Vladimir Tarasenko, whose second-period goal put the Blues ahead 2-1, thought the magnitude of the Winter Classic called for something out of the ordinary.
"It's not every year we play [outdoors] in Minnesota with this cold weather,'' he said. "We wanted to do something special. It worked out pretty good.''
Equipment staff filled Binnington's water bottle with hot chicken broth, and he went to the bench during TV timeouts to get new warmers for his feet and blocker hand. He called it a "kind of strange" game because he didn't drink or sweat much due to the subzero cold.
But he liked the broth.
"It's kind of like soup, so it was pretty good," Binnington said.
The ice conditions weren't as pristine as players might experience in arenas, but there weren't any major problems.
"The NHL did a pretty good job with the ice," Tarasenko said. "Of course, there were cracks, and the puck was bouncing. You know what you're going to face: You're going to face bouncy pucks, not much pace and it's very cold. … I don't think anybody complained about the ice."
Overall, O'Reilly gave the NHL and Minnesota kudos for their work on the Winter Classic.
"It was awesome. The NHL did a great job," he said. "To see the crowd, the setting, the fireworks, the amount of people … it's so special."