WILMINGTON, Mass. — Like the rest of the hockey world, most of the Bruins will spend Monday afternoon in front of the television watching this year's Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
But for the veteran members of the club who have been in Boston for a few years, their thoughts will be on Fenway Park. That's where the Bruins hosted the Flyers in the 2010 Winter Classic, and that day remains a career highlight for the participants, rivaling just about everything short of last spring's Stanley Cup victory.
"It was really cool," Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said. "Just being around [Boston] and being to Fenway a lot, then being able to skate on that ice. Coming out of the dugout and seeing the Fenway sign was one of the more memorable, probably one of the top five most memorable moments of my career. Maybe top three, take the two Cups out and that's probably it."
Less than half of the Bruins dressed for that Winter Classic remain with the team just two years later. Only forwards Thornton, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Daniel Paille, defensemen Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk and goalies Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask remain with the club from that Winter Classic roster, with the other 11 players dressed having moved on. But the Bruins who did experience the excitement of that day still look back fondly at the opportunity to play in such a spectacle.
That's especially true for Thomas, a Flint, Mich., native. That experience provided one of the few bright spots in a season that saw Thomas lose his starting job to Rask as he struggled with a hip injury that eventually needed offseason surgery.
"That was definitely, for myself personally, one of the highlights of that year for me," Thomas said. "That and going to the Olympics kind of saved that year for me. It was a lot of fun playing in the outdoor venue. As an American, playing in a baseball stadium meant possibly a little more to me than it could have meant to maybe a Canadian or Finnish guy. You have conflicted dreams growing up as an American. Even if you're a hockey player, part of you dreams are of being a baseball player too. So that was cool. And being a history buff, playing in a historic venue like Fenway Park was special too."
Thomas' two highlights for that season came together when the 2010 U.S. Olympic team was announced after the Winter Classic, and he got a chance to skate on the Fenway ice in a Team USA sweater as well as a Bruins one in the postgame ceremony.
"It was cool," Thomas said. "It was cool having Jim Craig there and wishing me luck going into the Olympics. That was a special day for me. And winning in overtime was a big part of that. If we don't win that game and we lose in overtime, I'd still have good memories of it and good memories of the experience, but it's like we won the Stanley Cup last year and that makes the memory so much more special than just going to the Stanley Cup Final and losing."
Bruins coach Claude Julien also has plenty of good memories from the Bruins' 2-1 overtime win at Fenway, as well as all of the other activities that surrounding the event. That included a particularly memorable practice in a snowstorm the day before the game.
"It was a great experience," Julien said. "All the stuff we went through even before the game. The day before and the preparation and the day of and how excited everybody was. It was a real, real great experience for our hockey club."