On Saturday, a slew of Bruins greats and celebrities will take the Fenway Park ice for the Boston Bruins Legends Classic. While this game will be for charity and celebrate hockey in Boston, it will still be treated like a real game to
at least one of the celebrities participating.
Denis Leary is probably
the most hardcore hockey fan and player in Hollywood. Leary hosts weekly
games of shinny on his backyard rink in Connecticut, plays in
numerous leagues at the Chelsea Piers rinks in New York and participates in yearly tournaments with fellow
celebrities and former NHLers. He also incorporates hockey
into his FX hit show, Rescue Me, and has had Cam Neely and former Bruin and Hall
of Famer Phil Esposito make cameo appearances.
Leary takes his hockey seriously, to say the least, and according to
fellow Rescue Me actor and co-host of the Inside Hockey Radio Show Todd Carroll, he won’t be taking any
shifts off on Saturday.
"I have been around the game a long time … and I can’t think of one person that is more passionate about the game than Denis Leary," Carroll told NESN.com. "I know this will be a normal type charity game where it’ll be easy and free-flowing, but I’m sure as the game winds down, Denis will go for the jugular and maybe even shorten the bench to try and win the game."
Leary and Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine both run their own competitive teams, and a rivalry has been established between the men's clubs. The heated competition has carried over into the charity games the two friends play at their respective backyard rinks, and Carroll has had the pleasure of playing in these games.
"There is a tournament every year at the end of January with six teams,” Carroll explained. “Glenn Anderson has a team, Denis has a team, there’s a Microsoft team, there’s an NHL team and Pat has his team. We basically play this tournament for a trophy and on Sunday, we have a specific tournament between Denis' team and Pat's team. There is a best-of-seven series with the losing team donating money to the winning team’s charity.”
But as Carroll pointed out before, the games and atmosphere get intense.
"If Denis is playing in a charity game and loses it, you’ll definitely hear about it from LaFontaine and others because he gives it to them," Carroll said. "Denis is not happy when he loses, even when it’s just a little shinny game."
Leary is so intense about hockey that if cast members of Rescue Me are invited to Chelsea Piers or his backyard rink for a pick-up game and they don’t show up, their characters in the show are punished or not written into the show for a while.
Carroll plays a cop and on-ice rival of Leary’s character on the NYPD hockey team, and he has experienced this punishment firsthand.
"When you’re working with Denis, you always have to be careful,” Carroll said. "You need to show up for ice time and there are some other actors that have not shown up and sometimes their storylines will fluctuate as such. I think I messed up at a few skates last year and have not been seen on Rescue Me since. That just shows you how serious Denis takes his hockey.”
For Leary and Carroll, the on-ice experiences that are part of the TV show are the most treasured moments of his acting career, and he can’t say enough about Leary’s passion for the game.
“Denis is so passionate about hockey and how he is able to organize these charity hockey games," Carroll said. "Whether it’s getting actors that love hockey, or producers, or billionaires, he’s been able to put together an unbelievable community with guys like Bobby Farrelly, Kiefer Sutherland and Michael J. Fox.
"Sitting on the set of Rescue Me with Phil Esposito, Cam Neely and Lyndon Byers … I’d take that any day of the week rather than sitting down with George Clooney or Brad Pitt," Carroll said. "That was one of the biggest highlights of my short-lived acting career, and I’m sure of Denis’ long career."
The proceeds for the Boston Bruins Legends Classic will go to the Boston Bruins Foundation, Red Sox
Foundation and Hockey Fights Cancer. Tickets for the game can be purchased here.
NESN.com's James Murphy will be answering one Winter Classic question each day leading up to the event.
Tuesday, Dec. 29: What is the ticket market for the Winter Classic?
Thursday, Dec. 31: What would the late Jack Falla, author of "Home Ice", "Open Ice" and "Saved" as well as outdoor rink expert and longtime Boston University professor, think of the Winter Classic taking place at Fenway Park?