The hype for the Winter Classic is in full force now as the big day is just over two weeks away. While Bruins and Flyers players are doing their best not to get distracted and focus on the task at hand, most of them give in when the topic is brought up.
“I really don’t want to think about that too much, but it’s something I think we’re all excited about,” Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said recently. “It’s two points, so in the end, it’s just another game, right? But we know there’s more to it, and we’ll try to enjoy it.”
The players’ excitement for the historic game stems from the opportunity to relive their childhood and play outdoors once again — a common memory for both the Bruins and Flyers.
“I think that’s something you don’t get to do much anymore, so it brings you back to being a kid again and skating on a pond or outdoor rink,” center Marc Savard said. “You go back to your roots, and that’s what’s so cool about this. It’s fun for the fans and for us, the players.”
One of the more unique elements of playing outdoors and one that players are looking forward to is that players will feel and experience the game more than they do indoors in an NHL arena.
“You remember playing on the outdoor rink, the sounds of the blades ripping on the ice,” Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger said. “That maybe won’t be drowned out by the sound effects of the crowd. Stuff like that will bring you back in time.”
Bruins forward Michael Ryder, who already played an outdoor NHL game with Montreal in the Heritage Classic in Edmonton in 2003, agreed with Pronger’s assessment.
“It’s a really surreal atmosphere, and it brings you back to when you’re a kid,” Ryder said. “It’s cold. that’s for sure, but sometimes you like that when you’re playing. It’s refreshing. You feel the game more. You hear the skates, the puck, it’s really cool.”
Bruins defenseman Matt Hunwick played for the University of Michigan two years after the Wolverines played Michigan State in the “Cold War” game at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich. After missing out on the college version of the Winter Classic, Hunwick is excited for the chance to play outdoors with the Bruins.
“I heard so much about that game in East Lansing when I was at Michigan, and I was so jealous,” Hunwick said. “It seemed like it was an awesome experience for the guys that played, and I’m looking forward to this for sure. Outdoor hockey is special, and you just think of all those times playing with your friends on ponds, or whatever, and it brings you back.”
NESN.com’s James Murphy will be answering one Winter Classic question every day in December.
Tuesday, Dec. 15: What are the Flyers’ thoughts on playing at Fenway Park?
Thursday, Dec. 17: What does the Winter Classic mean to Flyers coach Peter Laviolette?
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