It’s still a few days away and it remains to be seen what the weather conditions are going to be like early next week for the Winter Classic, but the Boston Bruins players are getting excited about it even as they’ve got another game to play against the Buffalo Sabres this weekend.
Fenway Park will be the first venue to host a second outdoor Winter Classic when they open the doors on Monday afternoon for the Boston Bruins to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins, a high-wattage matchup that’s created some entertaining, competitive games over the last decade with players like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang consistently taking part in the rivalry.
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For some like Bergeron, it will be his fourth Winter Classic and another chance to enjoy a special moment in a Hall of Fame career full of them.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of four of them already,” said Bergeron, also referencing the Lake Tahoe game as well as Winter Classics at Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium and Notre Dame. “So it’s a special event. The league does a great job with that event and I’m looking forward to it. It kind of breaks the season in half for us too, so it’s a thing to be looking forward to. We have a family skate [at Fenway] the night before, so it’s really a nice family event that we can look forward to.
“It is special for the guys. I know you want to treat it as a regular season game, but it’s a special event for sure.”
For others it will be the first time they’ve had a chance to experience outdoor hockey at the NHL level, and they are very much looking forward to being part of what’s become the NHL’s signature regular season event over the last 15 years.
“It’s going to be fun. You like those games because there’s going to be a little more on the line,” said Hampus Lindholm, fresh off a two-assist performance against the Devils on Thursday night. “It will be a fun game for us with a little more meaning, [not that the] games we’re playing now don’t have meaning. Obviously, it’s a little more of a special game.”
The sentiment was similar for Pavel Zacha, who will be playing his first outdoor NHL game next week as well.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Zacha. “I never played [in a Winter Classic]. There’s a couple of guys where it’s going to be their first one. And against Pittsburgh too, so it’s going to be fun.”
Chief among those first timers will be Nick Foligno, who has never taken part in an NHL outdoor game despite over 1,000 NHL games played and stints with Ottawa, Columbus, Toronto and Boston his resume to this point.
“It’s funny,” said Foligno to the NHLPA. “Somebody said to me, ‘You’ve got to be the guy with the most games played that’s never had a Winter Classic.’ I’ve got to be up there. I’m really excited about this. Anyone that’s ever played the game, especially in the northern U.S. or throughout Canada, being outside and playing hockey is any kid’s dream.
“My wife, my extended family, especially my kids, who are at an age where they can enjoy it, appreciate it and hopefully remember it, this will be special to share with them. I’ll be able to skate on the ice with them before the game, have them there to cheer me on. My wife bought all the insulated gear, so everyone is pumped about this. These are the moments that we can all remember. It will be pretty special to have that and share that for years to come. I don’t think you could script any better with Fenway and all the history surrounding it. Just Boston in general, the sports scene is phenomenal. The fans care about their teams and have a huge passion for sports. To be in that venue, we’re looking forward to that. It’s going to be a lot of fun to step onto the ice in those surroundings.”
There’s that word “fun” again that keeps popping up over and over when the Boston Bruins players get to talking about the Winter Classic that they’ll be suiting up for on Monday morning.