The Making of a Winter Classic
Target Field gets ready for the NHL Winter Classic. Chad Pederson

The Making of a Winter Classic

The forecast calls for a plunge below zero the evening of the Jan. 1 game at Target Field, but a special menu of comfort food and drink will help keep the sold-out crowd warm.

Editor’s note: story updated with details on a special menu for the game. 

The Twin Cities’ forecast for the final days of 2021 should preserve the NHL ice rink that currently occupies the infield at Target Field. By current estimates, the high will be 9 degrees on Jan. 1 when the Minnesota Wild face off against the St. Louis Blues in the Winter Classic. By sunset, the temperature in Minneapolis is expected to plunge below zero.

To keep fans warm, Target Field announced a special menu for the game that includes scratch-made soups and ramen. Highlights include: Tater Tot Hot Dish (served at Mill City Grille locations, 105, 118, 319 and Section Q), Booyah, the traditional kettle soup featuring braised short rib and root vegetables simmered in beef, chicken, and oxtail broth (portable outlet near Section 116), Pecos River Red Chili from The Loon Cafe (available at numerous concession stands), and Midwestern Ramen with smoked pork in a steamy broth (concession stand near Section 120). The Winter Classic drink menu at bars throughout the ballpark will include Salted Caramel Kahlua, Peppermint Crush, Bailey’s Smore—garnished with mini marshmallows, brownie bites and graham crumbs, and Pink Whitney and Soda, a nod to former NHL player Ryan Whitney.

Despite a stretch of unseasonably warm days before Christmas, the making of the outdoor rink came together right on schedule. A 53-foot trailer—the world’s largest refrigeration unit—pulled up at Target Field on Dec. 17 with state-of-the-art ice-making and ice-monitoring equipment used to create an “NHL-caliber sheet of ice.”

Photo by Mike Novak

We were there to document the process of transforming Target Field into the home of the NHL Winter Classic, a New Year’s Day tradition, which will be played in Minnesota for the first time in 2022 after Covid-19 forced a cancellation of the 2021 game. The NHL says the game will go on, despite a spike in Covid-19 cases due to the highly contagious Omicron variant.

“We’ve been trying to get this game here for a long time,” said Minnesota Twins legend Joe Mauer, who took in the sight of his career field being transformed to an ice rink before Christmas. “I’ve been a part of a lot of games here and a lot of events. Collaborating with the NHL–this is going to be something special. I’m excited for the fans; I’m excited for the community.” Mauer plans to attend the sold-out game. “I’m excited to come out here and root on the Wild. I’m excited to see how it plays here.”

Photo by Chad Pederson

As part of the lead-up to the main event on New Year’s Day, an NHL Trophy Display will be open to the public at Mall of America on Wednesday, Dec. 29 and Thursday, Dec. 30. The Stanley Cup will be on display at select times in the mall’s North Atrium, along with 20 other hockey trophies from the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Visit our sister site, mspmag.com, for more facts and figures about the Classic and Minnesota’s teeth-chattering Jan. 1 weather stats.

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