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Posted On Monday, 01.02.2012 / 3:42 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Live from the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic

Victorino a very interested observer

PHILADELPHIA -- Growing up in Hawaii, Shane Victorino can be forgiven for not being the biggest hockey expert in the world. That doesn't mean the Philadelphia Phillies' centerfielder isn't having a blast watching the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers skating in a rink built on his field.

"I think it looks great," Victorino said of the rink. "I wish they could do it every year here. This is something that not only is it great for the Phillies, but for the city, it brings a lot of excitement. What better rivalry than this? Both these teams, they're in first place. I'm excited to see it tonight."

Victorino said he has tried skating once before, at a rink in Oahu -- the only one in Hawaii.

"I tried it as a kid, but wasn't very successful," he said. "I tried to run, not push off. That sport didn't last long for Shane."

Victorino made a fine choice by sticking with baseball. Now in his eighth season (seventh with the Phillies), he has won three Gold Gloves, played in two All-Star Games, and won a World Series with the Phils in 2008.

He said the ballpark certainly looks a bit different than he's used to, including the 1,500 temporary seats installed in his position for the game.

"I liked how it looked (with the seats), but it didn't shorten the ballpark," he said. "Those seats in center field, I like that. It's pretty neat to have those seats, but I like the park the way it is."

One other difference was the color of the attire the fans were wearing.

"I'm used to walking out there and seeing everybody in red," he said. "But seeing everybody in orange, it's great. I think it's awesome. It's definitely a red ballpark, but today it's orange."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK



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Posted On Monday, 01.02.2012 / 1:36 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Live from the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic

Legendary performer LaBelle ready for anthem first

PHILADELPHIA -- In her long, legendary career, Patti LaBelle has played some of the most famous venues around the world.
 
But in a career that spans more than 50 years, the legendary performer will have a career-first Monday. LaBelle, a Philadelphia native, will sing the National Anthem in her hometown for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
 
"It means that you're grown up," LaBelle told NHL.com. "I'm a grown-up woman."
 
LaBelle has won two Grammy awards, sold out buildings and won acclaim as an actress, author and chef, but she said even she's not sure what it's going to be like when she walks out in front of more than 47,000 people here at Citizens Bank Park.
 
"It's very unique," she said. "It's freezing out there. I've never, ever sung in weather like this."
 
LaBelle said she's not the biggest hockey fan in the world, but there's no doubt which team she'll be rooting for Monday.
 
"I'm not a hockey fan," she said, "but I know about the Flyers and they're great."
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Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 6:03 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Live from New Year's Day practices

Bryzgalov shows off his thermos


PHILADELPHIA -- Ilya Bryzgalov was the center of attention today at Citizens Bank Park when he informed the national media covering the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic that he would be the backup in Monday's game and Sergei Bobrovsky would get the start.

"I have great news and even better news," said Bryzgalov following the team's morning practice. "OK, great news is I'm not playing (Monday), and better news is we have a chance to win the game (Monday)."

The news wasn't so great to coach Peter Laviolette, who told the media a short while later that he had yet to talk to his goalies and wasn't ready to reveal who his starter would be. The team confirmed about 5 p.m. that it would be Bobrovsky.

When asked what he would do as the backup, Bryzgalov said, "Make sure I don't forget my thermos with some nice tea and enjoy the bench."

Then, about 5:30 p.m., Bryzgalov unveiled his latest piece of Winter Classic equipment -- his thermos.

It's tough to tell from the picture if it was a humongous big thermos. But I'm sure the tea will be fantastic.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 3:51 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Live from New Year's Day practices

Lilja first on the ice

PHILADELPHIA -- Decked out in an orange tuque and his Winter Classic home jersey, Flyers defenseman Andreas Lilja was the first player to skate on the temporary ice rink built in the middle of the Citizens Bank Park infield this morning.

This isn't Lilja's first Winter Classic -- he played with the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field for the 2009 outdoor game -- but said he's going to have far more fun playing for the home team this time.

"The thing I remember most was we were the visiting team, and we had such a long walk to the game," Lilja told NHL.com. "I think it took us at least five minutes to walk to the game. But it was an awesome feeling."

He expects more of the same when he takes the ice Monday.

"I heard it was unbelievable yesterday (for the Alumni Game)," said Lilja. "I hear it was unreal. … I'm really looking forward to that tomorrow."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 12.31.2011 / 8:23 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 Molson Canadian Winter Classic Alumni Game

Remembering Brad McCrimmon

PHILADELPHIA -- Brad McCrimmon made his mark on many players all over the NHL during his 18 seasons as a player as well as his coaching career. It was that coaching career that took him to the Lokomotiv team in Russia this year, and led to his tragic death in September's plane crash.

McCrimmon spent five seasons with the Flyers, and in today's Alumni Game, his presence was felt as each player had a No. 10 patch on their left shoulder.

"About a month ago I requested to do it and the entire organization thought it would be a great idea," said Mark Howe, McCrimmon's defense partner for three seasons during which the Flyers went to the Stanley Cup Final twice. "Brad was a very important part of the team in the '80s and a dear friend to a lot of people in the locker room and it was only fitting he be remembered as part of the team."

The players certainly were proud to do something to memorialize McCrimmon.

"Brad McCrimmon was a tough loss for all of us," said Rick Tocchet. "For me especially. He was one of the main reasons I stuck in the NHL. I sat beside him in the locker room. He was a big part of my life, teaching me how to be a pro."

Contact Adam Kimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 12.31.2011 / 8:11 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 Molson Canadian Winter Classic Alumni Game

Desjardins soaking it all in

PHILADELPHIA -- When Eric Desjardins walked out of the dugout for today's Alumni Game, he wanted to make sure he remembered every second of it.

"I had the iPhone from my son," Desjardins told NHL.com. "I wanted to have memories. Sometimes there are so many things going on, it's tough to get it all in. I wanted to have something to look after and remind me I was here."

Desjardins put in his usual solid effort, playing 14:52, and didn't look much different from the player who spent 17 seasons in the NHL, his final 11 with the Flyers.

"It felt great," he said of the reaction he received from the fans. "It was a lot of fun. Not only to come back and play for the Flyers, but outdoors like this in the big stadium, it was a great feeling."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 12.31.2011 / 8:06 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 Molson Canadian Winter Classic Alumni Game

No little save for Little

PHILADELPHIA -- Growing up in Medicine Hat, Alta., Neil Little admitted he was a fan of the dynasty Edmonton Oilers teams of the 1980s. He got an up-close look at one member of that dynasty in today's Alumni Game when Glen Anderson had a penalty shot in the third period.

Anderson, who scored 498 goals on his way to a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame, broke in alone, but Little -- who played two NHL games -- got his shoulder on the shot, knocking it high and wide.

"Yeah, how about that?" Little told NHL.com. "That was enjoyable."

Little stopped 11 of 12 shots he faced in just over 27 minutes of action. While he never got a long run in the NHL, he's been a part of the Flyers' organization as a player and scout for all but one season in Finland since 1993.

"That was special," Little said after the game. "I was a little nervous off the bat, but that's to be expected. After that it was fantastic. Just soaked it up and enjoyed the moment.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 6:45 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Classic Preparations

Alumni game to be a Clarke family affair

VOORHEES, N.J. -- At the Philadelphia Flyers' practice rink, there's a balcony off the general manager's office that allows him to observe his players in action.

For years as GM of the Flyers, Bob Clarke occupied that spot. Yesterday, it was his daughter, Jodi -- who works for the team as a receptionist -- watching from that same spot.

When asked what it was like to watch her father -- a Hockey Hall of Famer, three-time Hart Trophy winner and two-time Stanley Cup champion -- back in action, she had a unique reply.

"Funny," she told NHL.com, then started laughing. "When he started skating a month ago, it was slow and very methodical. But now that they're all back together, you see a little more jump in their step and they seem to be reliving their youth and having a ball."

Clarke was joined by a few former teammates, including Bill Barber, Reggie Leach and Bernie Parent, for a skate this morning here at Virtua Flyers Skate Zone.

Also on the ice was Peter, Bob's 12-year-old grandson. For mom Jodi, that was really what she wanted to see.

"Him and my dad in the last year do pretty much everything together," said Jodi. "When he was littler it was harder, but now they're buddies. My dad is taking him to the family skate, he's taking him to the Alumni Game. Peter will probably be on the bench. He just wants to experience everything with my little guy and I love that. My daughter, she likes it but she's more interested in shopping with Grandma than she is watching Grandpa do anything. I'm very excited for my son."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 1:41 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers mull signing of Madden

With seven forwards currently on the injured list, it appears the Florida Panthers are giving serious consideration to bringing in 38-year-old John Madden to shore up their depth.

The Miami Herald's George Richards reported on his Twitter account Thursday that Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said Madden is in Florida to take a physical and continue contract talks.

Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon told the Herald on Wednesday that he and Madden's representative were discussing a deal. The big question was how long it would take Madden to shake off the rust that comes with not having played since the end of last season with the Minnesota Wild.

"John has always been a good skater," Tallon told the Herald. "And he's a pretty solid guy, has been for a long time."

Madden has won three Stanley Cups -- two with the Devils and another in 2010 with the Blackhawks. In 12 NHL seasons, Madden has 345 points in 867 games.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.28.2011 / 12:03 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Classic Preparations

College teams get first view of Winter Classic rink

PHILADELPHIA -- While the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers is the prime event for the ice rink being built here at Citizens Bank Park, it's far from the only event.

Representatives from four college teams that will play here after the NHL leaves got their first tour of stadium Wednesday, and walked away highly impressed.

"It's kind of breathtaking," Drexel University coach Greg Marinari told NHL.com. His team will play Villanova University on Jan. 5, one day after Penn State plays Neumann University. "It's very exciting to see all the work they're putting in."

Marinari said he told his players about the game following a game in early December, and said the reaction "was so loud outside the locker room that the parents were asking what the big announcement was."

Bill Downey, Penn State's director of hockey operations, said his players had the same reaction when they learned they would be playing outside at Citizens Bank Park.

"We were actually on a trip down to Liberty University in Virginia, we're on the bus … they were getting all the information from social networking, via Twitter and Facebook," Downey told NHL.com, "so we could hear them start rumbling in the back of the bus. We didn't want to tell them until the end of the weekend, but in this day and age, that stuff comes out pretty quickly. They were thrilled. I know they couldn't be more excited to play in the game."

The game will be a boon for PSU, which moves from a non-varsity team to NCAA Division I next season. Currently, PSU plays as an independent in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, before joining the new Big Ten conference in 2013-14.

"To have an opportunity for our school to come play here, it's going to mean so much to the players moving forward, as a memory for them," said Downey. "I couldn't be more happy for the players, and for the program it's such a step in the right direction."

Downey said he was in Pittsburgh last year for the 2011 Winter Classic, and has talked to people from other college and NHL teams that have played outside for advice. What they've told him is that there's not a lot, really, you can plan for in advance.

"We've been talking to a bunch of people, trying to figure some things out," he said. "It's such a crapshoot with what the weather is going to be like. You can plan for a thousand things, but you might drive yourself crazy doing that. When the day comes, we'll be ready to go and be mentally focused.

"I think the biggest thing is to try and eliminate some of the awe factor of walking into a venue like this and just allowing them to play a game as normally as possible. They're all going to be excited and just having them prepare and be ready mentally to play the game is most important."

Marinari said he's gotten the same advice for when his team faces Villanova in another chapter in their area rivalry -- both are members of the ACHA Eastern College Hockey Association.

"You're still putting on your skates, you're still putting on your pads," he said. "Maybe now you're putting an extra layer underneath, but you're still playing a hockey game.

"It's very exciting. I cannot wait."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres