Cam Neely spent the first half of his childhood skating on frozen backyard rinks just outside of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and later on Allouette Lake in British Columbia. But never did Neely think he would one day skate on an outdoor rink at Fenway Park as he did on Dec. 18, and will again on Jan. 2 in the Legends Classic game.
While the events surrounding the Winter Classic bring back memories of Neely's previous outdoor hockey experiences, there are some differences between his childhood experiences and Fenway Park.
"Instead of a Green Monster, there was a big white wall of snow," Neely joked. "It’s similar but different because we had trees around us and not a baseball park. Most of us have skated outdoors but usually on some pond or backyard rink. You worry about leaves or branches stuck in the ice but it does bring you back. But none of us thought we’d be skating outdoors in an environment like this."
Still, Neely has been reliving his childhood a lot lately and enjoying the experience that this Winter Classic has brought him.
"It was great," he said of his outdoor skating and hockey experiences. "No adults telling you what to do, you’re kids, you figure it out on your own. You throw sticks in the middle and whatever end your stick is at, that’s what team you’re on. There’s something to be said for that."
Neely is very excited for the Winter Classic and what it will mean to the New England region that he has grown so fond of since becoming a Bruin back in 1986.
"When you have two organizations like the Bruins and the Red Sox that are original teams in their respective sports and in a city like Boston where it’s such a huge sports town, it’s special for the city, for New England and for our fans," he said. "You bring these traditions together and you’re bringing the game and a lot of people back to their hockey roots, it’s just an amazing experience."
Neely admitted that he is jealous of the current Flyers and Bruins players that will actually play in the Winter Classic and that if he had done the same it would have ranked right up at the top of his career achievements.
"Certainly right up there with any great event in my career," the three-time 50-goal scorer and hall of famer said. "It’s something you certainly would’ve never thought would happen but to see it now, it’s definitely something I would’ve loved playing in."
NESN.com's James Murphy will answer one Winter Classic question every day leading up to the event.
Friday, Dec. 25: Is Winter Classic apparel from Reebok flying off the shelves?
Sunday, Dec. 27: Will goaltenders or position players have an advantage outdoors?