Growing up in Kamloops, Alberta, Mark Recchi would play plenty of shinny on local lakes or on his friends' driveway rinks when they’d freeze over. He and his mates would dream of one day playing in the NHL and winning the Stanley Cup.
Recchi, of course, went on to do just that, playing 1,522 games heading into Friday night and winning two championships through a storied career that is still going strong.
But never did he envision playing an NHL game outdoors, in one of the most well-known sports venues in the world. He'll do just that on New Year’s Day, when he and his Bruins teammates take on the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park.
Could Recchi ever imagine playing in a professional game outdoors?
“Certainly not,” he said. “It’s really unique and exciting and I’m honored to be able to take part in it. [When I was a kid], we skated on lakes, and then we had friends who made their driveways or backyards into rinks, so it was always something we could do, but I would’ve never imagined this.”
Recchi recalls boards made out of snow and lots of fun times playing hockey outdoors. But to think that two points will be at stake in the Fenway game — and that it will be played in an NHL rink — is extraordinary to him.
“It was a lot of fun out there,” Recchi said of his childhood experience playing outdoor hockey. “We would use the snow banks as boards, and we’d be playing out there until our parents called us in when it was dark. But the opportunity to play at Fenway Park is so special with all the history, what’s gone on there over the years. It’s amazing.
"To play there in a hockey rink is something else," he continued. "The environment, the mystique, is just immediate once you walk in. It’s a great place to watch a baseball game — not so sure about hockey, but it’s being there that will make that day special. But this is for real. Real boards, an NHL-size rink, the works. And it counts in the standings. Pretty amazing.”
Recchi and most of his teammates have been seeking the advice of Daniel Paille — who played in the 2008 Winter Classic in Buffalo — plus Michael Ryder, Steve Begin and Claude Julien, who all played in the 2003 Heritage Classic in Edmonton.
"Having a coach and teammates that have been through it before really helps," Recchi said. "They’ve already been telling the guys that are new to this that we need to take short shifts. We’re going to be really warm on the bench with the heaters, but your lungs can take a beating in that cold air."
The Bruins will also have the built-in incentive of getting revenge on the Flyers, who came from behind to take down Boston 3-1 this past Monday at the TD Garden.
"Yeah, that will be in our mind, for sure," Recchi said. "That will help us focus on the game probably and not get too caught up in the excitement of the whole day and event.”
NESN.com’s James Murphy will be answering one Winter Classic question every day in December.
Thursday, Dec. 17: What does the Winter Classic mean to Flyers coach Peter Laviolette?
Saturday, Dec. 19: How do fans feel about the game at Fenway Park?