Ken Hitchcock once coached winter classic vs. prison inmates

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Getty Images

ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Blues only have one player with NHL outdoor experience: Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who played in a Stadium Series game with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2014.

But coach Ken Hitchcock revealed some interesting personal history with outdoor hockey, after the Blues’ practice at Busch Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

“I’ve coached outdoor games before. Some against prison inmates,” he said. “[They] were a lot scarier than the [players] we’ll face tomorrow. Really scary, as a matter of fact. Like, we were afraid to score a goal.”

Hitchcock said that back in 1985, he decided it would be a good idea to “give back to the community.” So he helped organize a game at Saskatchewan Federal Penitentiary near Prince Albert between local players and inmates.

“There was snow was on top of the boards, and they were all lined up above the snow, and it looked almost like the Roman Coliseum,” Hitchcock said.

Much like with the Winter Classic on Jan. 2, there were weather challenges as well.

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“It was an interesting way of playing. It was 20 below, so the way we played was one group of five on the ice, one on the bench and one in the shack. So you went from the ice to the shack [to warm up]. It was a neat way of playing,” he said.

In the end, it was like a scene out of the football comedy “Necessary Roughness,” when a college football team looking to play a friendly exhibition took on a team of very dedicated prison inmates who pummeled them.

“They played for real, and we were trying to play for fun. They won,” said Hitchcock.

“It wasn’t one of my brightest ideas.”

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.