TAMPA, Fla. — Iowa doesn’t have an NHL hockey team, nor does the high school association sanction the sport. Despite the often freezing Upper Midwest temperatures, the sport is somewhat foreign to Iowa’s residents.
Iowa’s football players will get a chance to see the sport up close Thursday night as part of its Outback Bowl experience. The Hawkeyes will attend the Tampa Bay Lightning-Toronto Maple Leafs game at Amalie Arena. Between the second and third intermissions, a few select players from both Iowa and Florida will participate in an on-ice activity.
Quarterback C.J. Beathard grew up in Nashville cheering for the Predators so he has a rooting interest in the sport. He learned to skate before moving to Iowa in 2012.
“In Iowa it gets so cold a couple of years ago me and some football guys bought skates at Play It Again Sports,” Beathard said. “It was a frozen pond with goals. At the park with a bunch of guys playing on it, we played like five-on-five hockey. It was a lot of fun.”
Running back LeShun Daniels hails from Warren, Ohio, and admits he could skate around the rink without shuffling, a la Rocky Balboa.
“I can ice skate, not great, not even good. I’m just OK,” Daniels said. “It’s something I can do, especially if my girlfriend asks me to go. ‘You want to go …?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I guess.'”
Iowa tackle Cole Croston was raised in northwest Iowa and said there was “no chance” he’d head out on the ice for a hockey challenge.
“They might not have skates big enough for my feet,” Croston said. “I wear size 17 so I don’t think they have skates big enough.”
Wide receiver Riley McCarron grew up in Dubuque, which is across the Wisconsin border in northeast Iowa. He likes hockey and attended an NHL game the last time the Hawkeyes played in the Outback Bowl after the 2013 season.
“I can probably skate, but I can’t stop,” he said.