Hype Grows for Queen City Outdoor Classic

November 30, 2023 - International League (IL) - Charlotte Knights News Release

The Queen City Outdoor Classic is rapidly approaching, and with every day that creeps closer to Jan. 13 the hype around the big event grows.

"We're very excited," said head coach Geordie Kinnear. "It's in front of our fans in Uptown Charlotte and it's back to the roots of a lot of the players where it's outside, under the lights in the dark. For me there's nothing better. It's something to look forward to."

For a large contingent of the roster, those roots run deep.

"I'm Canadian so I grew up on an outdoor rink," said team captain Zac Dalpe. "Behind our house my grandpa used a bulldozer to dig a pond. So that's how I grew up - Stanley Cup, Game 7, next goal wins kind of thing outside. We pulled all-nighters on New Year's Eve."

"I used to do it on a soccer field," said Kinnear. "My dad used to make the rink, we had chain link fences as the goals, the ice was terrible, there was grass popping through but I was out there every single day. It's where we all love to play."

The Checkers got a sneak peek at the setting on Monday night when they took the Truist Field ice for an up-tempo, light-hearted skate aimed at resetting after a busy few weeks.

"Timing is everything," said Kinnear. "It's important timing for our group, we just came off the West Coast, then we played four games at home. I give our group a lot of credit, we didn't get the results but we played extremely hard and emptied the tanks. Didn't score a lot of goals so that's a bit of an issue. But you get back outside and you can get your creative juices flowing a little bit, put a little creativity out here and just get back to it. I think the timing has been good for our group."

The practice was also a chance to get a feel for the outdoor game's biggest wild card factor - the fact that it's outside.

"The elements," said Kinnear of the biggest challenge playing in an outdoor game. "It's a little harder to carry the puck, there's a little bit more snow. You're facing a little bit colder weather. Your nose is leaking a little bit from being outside. But that's what makes outdoor hockey so much fun, you just got to battle the elements. It's the same playing field for both teams."

For someone who has called Charlotte home for several years across his career, this outdoor game is extra special for Dalpe.

"I've got a bunch of people coming down, like my dad who grew up watching me on an outdoor rink. So the whole thing is pretty special. And to do it in Charlotte, such a beautiful city, it's going to be fun. This is a beautiful park, we come to games in August and it's pretty cool to skate here."

The hype for the Queen City Outdoor Classic isn't just confined to the team - seated tickets for the event sold out in just a few hours, and the excitement among the fanbase is palpable.

"That's what makes Charlotte special, our group of fans," said Kinnear. "They're so into the game, so vibrant, so excited for the players. To be honest every one of our players who I've ever been here with loved playing here, loved playing in front of the fans, and they take a lot of pride in being competitive for the fans. It's a big community and we're a part of that community. We want to make the city proud and continue to do that on a regular basis. The outdoor game gives us another avenue to be able to do that."

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