ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Team Canada captain Dillon Dube had to pause briefly and pick at his jersey to try to count all the layers he'd put on before hitting the ice at New Era Field.
"I have three on right now," said Dube, adjusting his tuque in the media room at the home of the NFL's Buffalo Bills. "I'm a guy who doesn't wear anything, really, so right now I'm getting pretty hot. But overall out there I was pretty cold. I was going to put on a facemask but I just couldn't do it."
The Canadians had to figure out how to stay warm, keep the sun out of their eyes and deal with snow flurries as they practised Thursday for the first outdoor game in world junior hockey championship history. A tournament record crowd of over 40,000 was expected to brave the winter weather on Friday afternoon to watch Canada play the United States.
Layering up or even placing hand warmers in strategic areas were some of the tactics the Canadians employed to battle the cold as temperatures hovered around -10 C before the wind chill.
"I've got two layers of socks on, I tried to wear little gloves under my hockey gloves but it was just too much," said starting goaltender Carter Hart, who used to play on the backyard rink of Canada teammate Sam Steel when they were growing up in Sherwood Park, Alta. "It wasn't too bad out there, but the coldest thing was my feet.
"Thank God I didn't get any pucks into my feet, I think my toes would have broken off."
On top of staying warm, Canada had to figure out how to combat the glare off the ice from the afternoon sun. Most of the players wore eyeblack on their cheeks during the practice session and had tinted visors.
Although all of the players acknowledged the visors helped, none were really sold on the eyeblack.
"Overall, for myself, I just wore it for looks," said Dube, who jokingly wore sunglasses under his visor. "I don't know if it helped as much."
Veteran defenceman Dante Fabbro agreed with Dube.
"I honestly have no idea," said Fabbro when asked if the eyeblack helped. "They say it does, but I can't tell at all."
Head coach Dominique Ducharme, while concerned about the welfare of his players, was envious that they got to skate around and stay active to keep warm while he and his staff had to stay still behind the bench.
"The longer you stay, the colder you get," said Ducharme. "For us not moving much, we need a lot of layers."
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John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press