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Winter Classic anticipation building for Flyers, Bruins

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

 
PHILADELPHIA -- Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn has a way of thinking about the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic that always keeps the upcoming New Years Day event at Fenway Park fresh in his mind.
 
"It's kind of like waiting for Christmas," Coburn told NHL.com Thursday morning. "It's like a present halfway through the season."
 
The present comes with a lot of bells and whistles attached, all of which adds to the curiosity factor the Flyers and Bruins have right now.
 
For most, the Winter Classic represents a once-in-a-lifetime experience to go back to their roots and feel like kids again, when they threw sticks into the middle of the frozen pond or outdoor rink and divvied them up to create pick-up games after school.

That's what Coburn did in remote Shaunavon, Sask. It's what Bruins defenseman Derek Morris did every day in tiny Sylvan Lake, Alta., and what Flyers captain Mike Richards did in rural Kenora, Ont.
 
"We played every day," Morris told NHL.com. "We used to bring our skates, gloves and sticks to the school and then go down there 'til about dinner time and then go home and do our homework. We had a little small rink."
 
There won't be a little small rink draped across the infield and parts of the shallow outfield grass of Fenway Park. NHL Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig and his staff will again lay down a regulation-sized NHL rink equipped with everything the players are used to.
 
However, just like it was in Buffalo in 2007 and Chicago last year, nothing about this game will be routine for these players, and that's the charm of it all.
 
That's what creates the curiosity.
 
"Just watching the other ones you kind of get jitters, because it's exciting and it's just so pure," Coburn said. "It's such a break from the ordinary and really it's youthful."
 
Daniel Paille is one of the rare Bruins and Flyers who can speak from experience. He was on the ice at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium on Jan. 1, 2008 skating for the Sabres in the inaugural Winter Classic against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
 
Paille, who assisted on Brian Campbell's first-period goal that snowy afternoon in Western New York, was traded to Boston just days ago. At first he didn't even think about the prospect of getting another chance to play in what is normally a once-in-a-lifetime game, but friends began calling and asking about the Winter Classic.
 
"They started talking about coming to Boston for that game and all of a sudden I realized it," Paille told NHL.com. "It's a great experience having the outdoor feeling and the outdoor atmosphere. It's something I'm really looking forward to now."
 
Steve Begin is another one who speaks from experience. The Bruins forward was with the Montreal Canadiens for the Heritage Classic, the NHL's first regular-season outdoor game, on Nov. 22, 2003.
 
Begin could barely contain his excitement when talking about getting a chance to play in another outdoor game, especially this one at historic Fenway Park, where it shouldn't be nearly as frigid as it was in Commonwealth Stadium six years ago.
 
"I can't wait," Begin told NHL.com. "It's a great experience and to be in front of what, 40,000 or something like that, it's going to be something special. You want to show up for that game and you want to experience the whole day. It's magical. I'm quite lucky that it's going to be my second one. I'm so excited to be a part of that game."
"I can't wait," Begin told NHL.com. "It's a great experience and to be in front of what, 40,000 or something like that, it's going to be something special. You want to show up for that game and you want to experience the whole day. It's magical. I'm quite lucky that it's going to be my second one. I'm so excited to be a part of that game." - Steve Begin, Boston Bruins
All of the Flyers and Bruins are.
 
Sure, for the most part they mask that excitement now because it's still so early in this season-long grind and the focus is on getting into November with a decent record and a good rhythm. However, if you pull them aside and bring up the Winter Classic, their eyes light up and their childhood memories come flooding back.
 
They start telling stories about pick-up games and they can't stop.
 
That's what the Winter Classic does for them. That's what makes it a holiday worth waiting for.
 
"Everyone in here has played in the cold, when they've been out on the outdoor rink shooting pucks, learning how to pass and skate and all that stuff," Flyers forward Scott Hartnell told NHL.com. "To play outside in Boston, at Fenway Park, it'll be a special treat for everybody."
 
It's only 72 days away.
 
Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com