FOXBORO, Mass. — When Sammy Vatrano heard in early November that his younger brother had earned his first NHL call-up, he wasted no time.
He booked a flight out of Singapore, where he works as a businessman, back to his home state of Massachusetts, aiming to arrive in time to see his brother, Boston Bruins winger Frank Vatrano, play in the NHL Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium.
Never mind the fact that nobody, including the younger Vatrano himself, had any idea if he’d even be around for the league’s annual outdoor showcase.
“I didn’t really expect myself to play in this game this year,” Frank Vatrano said Wednesday afternoon. “But I got called up in November, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Vatrano scored in his NHL debut for the Bruins and hasn’t looked back, appearing in 22 of Boston’s last 24 games. Barring an injury, the 21-year-old is a lock to be in the lineup when the B’s host the Montreal Canadiens on Friday in Foxboro.
“It’s obviously really exciting to be a part of it, and with it being at Gillette, being a Patriots fan, being a Boston sports fan, it kind of makes it even more special for me,” Vatrano said. “… Everyone who’s a hockey fan obviously watches the Winter Classic, and everyone dreams of playing in it. And now, I’m having the opportunity to play in the game, so it’s a dream come true.”
Wednesday was family skate day at the stadium, and several members of the Vatrano clan made the 90-minute trip from their home in the Springfield, Mass., area to take part. Sammy was there, too, his early planning having paid off.
“It was awesome to see how happy they were,” Vatrano said. “I had my brother come in from Singapore, and my mom and dad were here, and my niece and nephew. So, for them to enjoy the experience with me and all that, it’s great to see the smiles on their faces. I think they’re even happier than I am, so it’s great.”
Vatrano said he has attended a few New England Patriots games in the past, so he knows what to expect from the venue.
“Obviously, it’s going to be awesome seeing, New Year’s Day, the fans that turn out here,” he said. “It’s a big stadium, so hopefully it’s going to be pretty loud. …
“It’s going to be probably just as cold in the stands as it’s going to be on the ice, so it’s exciting.”
Thumbnail photo via Perry Nelson/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Bruins winger Frank Vatrano