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Boston Baked Blog

By NHL.com Staff

Goodbye to the Winter Classic
1.2.10 | 5:54 p.m.

The 2010 Winter Classic is officially over as a wintry night falls here in Boston, snow swirling angrily off the roof of the Fenway Park grandstand and blanketing the ice surface in a soft white carpet of snow.

I'm sitting in the press box playing back memories of an unforgettable week here in the Hub of Hockey as I write this final blog entry of NHL.com's unparalleled coverage of the League's signature regular-season event.

As usual, I am one of -- if not the last -- journalist out the door. But, I am not complaining; far from it, in fact.

It has been an honor and a privilege to cover this event, to watch Boston embrace it in a way only this city can. It has been special to watch million-dollar athletes and retired Hall of famers turn into little boys as they took to the Fenway Park ice and reconnected with their inner child -- the one that played outdoor hockey until their toes tingled and their noses stung and the pull of hot chocolate and a roaring fire or a sizzling radiator became just too powerful.

Skating on the Fenway ice myself is one of the biggest perks in a job that has its fair share of cool assignments. It is something I will never forget.

And, now, I know why. Pat LaFontaine, the Hall of Fame center that played for the Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders and New York Rangers, summed it up best as he sat in the Boston Red Sox dressing room after scoring six points in the AT&T Legends Game and explained how the no-pressure game of shinny he had just finished playing could rank among his favorite hockey memories.

"This is so cool," he said. "It brings us back to where we all started our love of hockey. Almost all of us started on outdoor rinks or lakes. Mine was Williams Lake in Michigan. We just love the pure, outdoor part of this game.

"I think The Winter Classic is the best thing that hockey has done in a real long time. It's a marquee event that people can embrace. It's our Super Bowl and it's a regular-season game. And, to continue on and let the community share it, the alumni share it, college teams share it; I think it does nothing but promote the game and have more and more people fall in love with this game or bring them back to why they play the game in the first place."

That's a Hall of Fame quote by a Hall of Fame guy and captures the essence of what has been an unforgettable New Year's Weekend.

See you next year!

--Shawn P Roarke

Leetch savors Classic, Legends games
1.2.10 | 4:38 p.m.

Brian Leetch, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November, hasn't skated much since retirement so it was a rare treat to see No. 2, in his Bruins uniform, taking shifts on left defense. Leetch also participated in the Legends game during Hockey Hall of Fame weekend.

Leetch was funny that day because he had promised he was out of shape and started out playing an easy-going game. But you don't get into the Hockey Hall of Fame by being a guy who can turn it on and off. Midway through that game, Leetch started stripping pucks off opponents and taking hard shots and skating through opponents.


"It's exciting," said Leetch. "I had tickets for yesterday's event but I had a lot of people in for the holidays and sleeping over so I knew that I was playing today so I gave up my seats and hung out on the couch and watched it. I couldn't be more excited about this afternoon.

"I thought the play was good. I was worried about the ice and how the game was going to be but I thought both teams competed hard. It was really fast and I thought the end was terrific."

Leetch said he hasn't been skating much lately but a recent warmup took a nasty turn.

"I went out for a little tuneup but I went on the ice with my skate guards on and fell right on the ice," Leetch said. "It's been a little while. I'm looking forward to getting out there. I was a little jealous when I saw Bobby Orr out there (yesterday) and I was hoping we could get him out there but to be out

there with Cam Neely and Rick Middleton and see Johnny Bucyk, Kiefer Sutherland and Tim Robbins, it's going to be a lot of fun."

Leetch grew up in Connecticut and his father was raised in nearby Braintree, Mass., so Leetch is considered one of the greatest hockey players that New England has produced. He was asked if he was shocked that no Massachusetts players were named Friday to the U.S. Olympic team. Only two New Englanders made the squad, Chris Drury and goalie Jonathan Quick, both of Connecticut. Only two Hockey East graduates made the squad, Drury, who played at Boston University, and Tim Thomas of the University of Vermont.

Leetch said it was more a case of the rest of the country producing better hockey players rather than a decline in New England hockey.

"I think it's more a product of USA Hockey developing more at a grass-roots level," Leetch said. "A lot of the Soutehrn teams have drawn interest in youth sports so kids growing up with a little more ice time. USA Hockey today does a better job of identifying good players at a younger age, giving them more opportunities to play against elite competition. I think that's the really the payoff.

"I think Massachusetts hockey is strong and there's plenty of programs and plenty of kids that want to play hockey. It's just great to see players from all over the United States reaching that elite level."

Leetch finished his career as a Bruin and said he's happy to see the improvement the team has made.

"Its great. Obviously, the two acquisitions, Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara, made a huge difference. Being able to have that drafting of players who were able to come and be the foundation of your team makes a huge difference. Then you only need to add one player here and one player there. Your core is really the guys you developed through your system and I thing that's fantastic. There's no way to be successful without those young players. They're a fun team to watch. I've enjoyed being here and being able to watch their games and getting to know some of the players. It's good to see them playing well."

The NHL could have sold over 300,000 tickets to the Winter Classic but Fenway Park was jammed at 38,112. Leetch was one of those who had tickets but he gave them up to relatives

"I guess I was worried about the conditions and whether the game of hockey is going to be at as high a level as you want it to be. You want people to see what a great game it is. So, right away, on the first shift, when I saw (Mark) Recchi get in on a hit and it went back the other way, there was a chance with a big hit. The guys looked to me to be skating well and the puck was sitting down. Once I saw that, I enjoyed the whole show. The way the audio was you could hear the whole crowd cheering. It gives me chills right now after watching it. It was great.

"I think the Bruins and the NHL have done a great job these three weeks, of getting people involved in different causes," Leetch said. "I know we have some other events going on through the weeks for different charities. To have this with the NHL, the Bruins organization, the Red Sox, their foundations help out so many kids, it's fantastic."

Leetch said it was great to see the response of the Boston fans when Bobby Orr led the Bruins out of the dugout and onto the field at Fenway Park Friday. Even though most of the fans never saw Orr play, he is still revered, and Leetch is a big admirer.

"You have Bobby Orr and Gordie. For kids growing up in the U.S., those are the names you identify with. No. 4 and No. 9, you always see players fighting for those numbers even today. As a defenseman, the name Bobby Orr, when you thought of hockey that was the name that I thought of. I never saw Bobby play live, except for his highlights. My dad grew up in Braintree and he was certainly one of his favorite players. That all got passed down to me as a kid. Getting to meet him when I was younger, playing hockey, was great. My guy was Ray Bourque gowing up through high school. Then, I got to meet him and play against. But Bobby orr was the guy on the pedestal.

"You have nothing to say when you meet him but he's such a nice person that he makes you feel at ease. 'Wow, I just had a conversation with Bobby Orr.' He's such a great genetleman and ambassador for the game to have him associated with some of these events is great."

Gary Doak, a member of the Bruins' 1970 Stanley Cup champions during his two tours of duty with Boston, was a strong stay-at-home defenseman who provided great support for puck-moving defensemen like Orr. He failed to score a goal in nine of his 16 NHL defensemen. Leetch, a great puck-mover and scorer, was asked if he'd like to be paired with Doak.

"I've skated with him a few times. He's doing good. He gets involved in the offense, now, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him score," Leetch said, laughing. "Anybody else out there would be great."

A bounty? You can't do that!
1.2.10 | 3:38 p.m.

What's Johnny "The Chief" Bucyk got against Claude Julien?

The Hockey Hall of Famer who enjoyed a great 23-year NHL career coached Team Gold in the AT&T Legends Classic game at Fenway Park Saturday while Julien, the Bruins coach, played on Team Black.

"I've got to coach against him and the first thing I'm going to do is tell Hammer Schultz to go get him," Bucyk joked.

But Schultz, the physical force of the Broad Street Bullies when they beat the Bruins to win the 1974 Stanley Cup, has turned pacifist.

"No," said Schultz. "I came back here to enjoy myself on friendly terms, not to cause any problems. Well, maybe a couple."

Apprised that he was a target, Julien got into the spirit of the thing. Julien was asked if was coachable, that is, if his coach, Derek Sanderson, called for a 1-2-2 forecheck, would Julien comply if he thought a two-man forecheck was called for.

“It should be easy because I won’t have to listen to Chief out there. Some of these guys I’ve never met before. [It’s great to meet] some of these Boston legends that have played for the Bruins. To get to play on the Fenway ice is pretty special and I’m looking forward to it. Our guys have a day off and obviously I don’t, but it’ll be a fun day."

Bucyk went out on a limb and promised victory.

"I'm looking forward to coaching with Lenny Clarke. That's the gold team, which is going to be the winning team. Also, I'm sure we're going to have a lot of fun behind the bench."

Unfortunately, Team Gold lost the game, 9-5.

--John McGourty

Hammer time!
1.2.10 | 3:15 p.m.

The Flyers 1974 victory over the Bruins, in their seventh season after the NHL expanded from six to 12 teams ended the stigma of playing for expansion teams. In fact, in 1975, the Flyers repeated, defeating fellow expansion team, the Buffalo Sabres.

That 1974 victory was a changing of the guard for the NHL.

"We were the first expansion team to win," Schultz said. "We certainly weren't expected to win. The Bruins had a powerhouse, a great team with Bobby Orr, although from what I hear he was a little hurt. We were an upstart team that had a lot of things going for us, from coaching to management to all the way down to our leadership, from Clarkie and some of the other guys. We had great goaltending. I always remember that one save on Ken Hodge with about two or three minutes to go. Then, Art Skov, my favorite referee, called a penalty on Bobby Orr with 2 1/2 minutes to go in Game 6. We had to win a game here and we won in Game 2 and that was crucial."

Schultz said it was heartwarming to hear the cheers for Orr and Bobby Clarke, the Flyers longtime captain, then coach and general manager, when they dropped the ceremonial first puck at the Winter Classic.

"I know Bobby Orr is so reknowned and deserves all the accolades that he gets but I'm not so sure Clarkie (gets similar treatment)," Schultz said. "Clarkie was our leader, a great player for the Flyers for 15 years. Yeah, that was pretty nice."

"You know how many Bruins we had?" Schultz asked. "Joe Watson was one of the first expansion players in the draft. There were a number of other guys, Bernie Parent, Rick MacLeish, we eventually got Reggie Leach. The Flyers knew that in order to progress, they had to play a little tougher. Things just fell into place. I got drafted and played three years in the minors at first. Bob Kelly was there and we traded for Moose Dupont. I think the key was Fred Shero. He liked a tough team. I'm sure he was quite instrumental in getting Dupont."

Schultz remembers a little kid underfoot during his Flyers' day, a kid who went on to manage the Pittsburgh Penguins to the 2009 Stanley Cup, Fred Shero's son, Ray Shero.

"He's had an interesting career and done very well," Schultz said. "He was a pretty young kid back in those days, running around the rink. He's done a great job. Good for him."

--John McGourty

Satan a Bruin?
1.2.10 | 2:36 p.m.

This morning, word was floating around the press room at Fenway Park that the Boston Bruins had finalized a deal to sign veteran forward Miroslav Satan.

Satan, 35, is an unsigned free agent who has not played yet this year, but was named this week to the Slovakian Olympic team. According to reports, Satan signed a one-year contract.

In 65 games played with the Penguins last season, Satan recorded 17 goals and 19 assists; but was ineffective down the stretch and actually spent some down with Pittsburgh's minor-league affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. He played in 17 Stanley Cup Playoff games for the champion Penguins, managing just 1 goal and 5 assists.

Satan, who has 354 goals and 367 assists in 1,012 NHL games, will give Boston some depth and also an additional weapon on the power play.  He has 120 man-advantgage goals in his career.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Sturm wins it in OT
1.1.10 | 4:15 p.m.

Marco Sturm has scored in overtime -- or extra innings considering the venue -- to cap a third-period comeback and give the Bruins a thrilling 2-1 win in the 2010 Bridgestone Winter Classic.

Right now, Fenway Park is shaking as the fans celebrate a terrific hockey game.

Stay with NHL.com as we will have plenty of postgame coverage

- Phil Coffey


Fenway erupts
1.1.10 | 4:05 p.m.

Mark Recchi redirected a David Krejci shot past Michael Leighton on the power play to tie the game at 17:42 of the third period to tie the game, 1-1, and send up a roar heard throughout Boston.

Daniel Briere just got called for tripping Marc Savard with 48 seconds left to put Boston back on the power play.

We're headed to overtime.

- Phil Coffey


Thornton's thoughts on fighting
1.1.10 | 4:00 p.m. ET

Prior to getting into the first ever fight in a Winter Classic game, Bruins forward Shawn Thornton was asked on Wednesday why he thought no one had actually dropped the gloves outdoors.

"I don't really pay attention to it that much -- it's a hockey game first and foremost," Thornton said.

Thornton and Philadelphia's Dan Carcillo squared off at 12:01 of the first period.

"I know it's Boston and people really love that stuff," Thornton said. "That's kind of my job so you're going to ask the question. But I don't think about it, ever, in any game. I go out there and focus on playing hockey. If that stuff happens it's because something happened that needed to be  addressed and not because I was thinking about it the morning of, so I'm definitely not thinking of it three days before and I won't be thinking of it the morning of the game. I'd rather score a goal than get into a fight but obviously if something happens that needs to be addressed, then it'll be addressed but it's definitely not my focus."

- Mike G. Morreale


Sturm storm for Bruins
1.1.10 | 3:42 p.m.

Marco Sturm has had a couple great scoring chances in the third. Shorthanded his drive from the blue line slipped past Michael Leighton and roll toward the net, only to kiss off the base of the post. Moments later, on the power play, Sturm tried to jam the puck past Leighton's left skate and the post before being swept away by the Flyers' defense.

The crowd is doing its best to exhort the Bruins to the tying goal.

- Phil Coffey


Third period under way
1.1.10 | 3:29 p.m.

Play is under way for the third period with the Flyers looking to build on their 1-0 lead and the Bruins, who starting to surge in the latter stages of the third, looking to get even.

- Phil Coffey



Philly gaining momentum
1.1.10 | 2:59 p.m.

The goal has definitely given the Flyers some jump. They are all over the Bruins and getting some pretty good chances. The Flyers' skating has put them on the power play too as Zdeno Chara was whistled for taking down Scott Hartnell.

Big skate save on Danny Briere by Thomas. Jeff Carter's shot off the base of the post ... another good stop on Briere. The NHL's top PK unit just killed off the power play.

- Phil Coffey



Flyers take the lead
1.1.10 | 2:46 p.m.

The Flyers have taken a 1-0 lead on a goal by Danny Syvret, his first NHL goal at 4:42 of the second. Tim Thomas was distracted by Scott Hartnell in front and moved to move him out of the way when Syvret's shot slipped past.

Pretty nice to get your first career goal in the Winter Classic.

- Phil Coffey


Second period under way
1.1.10 | 2:37 p.m.

The puck has dropped and here we go.

Be sure to check out the fine fedora being worn by Bruins' coach Claude Julien, who said the hat wasn't his idea, but he'll take credit for it.

Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel is here, another sign that this is a big deal.

The crowd is just roaring here.

- Phil Coffey


Eye black in the outdoors
1.1.10 | 2:13 p.m.

I'm sure you folks already have spotted this, but for the record, some players, like the Flyers' Chris Pronger and the Bruins' Tim Thomas are wearing eye back like the summertime inhabitants of Fenway Park.

And let me cast my vote for the teams to keep using these uniforms. They look great and one of those sweet Bruins jerseys may well find its way into my luggage before heading of town.

Thomas just made a nifty save. The eye black is working. In the last minute of the period now and a couple more nice stops by Thomas.

Scoreless at the end of one.

- Phil Coffey


They're just scrapping!
1.1.10 | 2:06 p.m.

The fight between the Flyers' Dan Carcillo and the Bruins' Shawn Thornton was the first in the three-year history of the Winter Classic in case things like this interest you.

My sources on the field say the Stealth bomber flyover was spectacular. Pretty impressive inside the NHL.com bunker too.

Also, our sources are saying that the players and officials love the condition of the ice and that has made for a furious pace, which just saw another dust-up among the participants with David Krejci and Oskars Bartulis banished to the box

- Phil Coffey


Bodies in motion
1.1.10 | 1:41 p.m.

Well, the boys decided that while they're getting used to the sightlines of playing outdoors they might as well take the body.

Great!

Lots of speed and lots of hitting in the early going and Claude Giroux had a terrific chance in the early going.

It is 39.6 degrees at game time. Somewhere, Dan Craig is smiling, this ice is making for a fast game.

Oh, by the way, Tim Thomas and Michael Leighton are the goalies.

Speaking as someone with a large cranium, how does Scott Hartnell get a helmet over his flowing locks? Just wondering.

And let me bore you all with a family matter and wish a happy 85th birthday to Don Coffey, my father and my favorite World War II veteran. He already has told me to get off the phone and get to work today.

- Phil Coffey


Orr back in uniform, pinch me

1.1.10 | 1:30 p.m.

Seeing Bobby Orr back in a Bruins jersey was worth the price of admission alone. Hearing Fenway erupt at the sight was indescribable. Sorry, I'm babbling, but Bobby Orr is BOBBY ORR! He resides in the most exclusive of all company in my book -- Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky.

With the anthems now concluded -- and nicely done by Daniel Powter and James Taylor I might add, we are getting down to the game. As great as the pre-game festivities were, this game can be really special.

-- Phil Coffey

It keeps getting better
1.1.10 | 1:20 p.m.

Bobby Clarke is leading the Flyers on to the ice and Bobby Orr is leading the Bruins out. And they are decked out in jerseys.

I may pass out. Really, does it get much better than this?

I had goosebumps the other day when Dave Schultz and Joe Watsons of the Broad St. Bullies and Turk Sanderson, Pie McKenzie and Ken Hodge of the Big, Bad Bruins were at Fenway to talk about the rivalry.
 
- Phil Coffey


What a cool sight
1.1.10 | 1:03 p.m.
 
Yeah, I know "cool sight," I'm a regular wordsmith, but that just what it's like here at Fenway Park. From the Green Monster to the vintage jerseys, this is just special.

The Flyers are wearing toques during warm-ups, so that adds to the mystique.

Mike Emrick just called it a spectacle and the real wordsmith among us got it right.

- Phil Coffey


Fenway sights, sounds leave Taylor speechless

1.1.10 | 12:30 p.m.

As a songwriter James Taylor is an expert at painting pictures with his lyrics. But even he was having trouble explaining the majesty of Fenway Park on New Year's Day.

Taylor, who will perform the Star-Spangled Banner before the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, saw the field earlier in the morning as he performed his sound check.

"It's beautiful out there," Taylor told NHL.com. "To see Fenway in the snow and to see the rink set up out there, it's amazing.

"To have hockey at Fenway is already a double-take. It's a really unusual thing and it feels festive."

Taylor looked out a window overlooking Yawkey Way as he spoke, taking in throngs of fans waiting for the gates to open at 11 a.m. his sons, Rufus and Henry, both 8, fired off rapid-fire questions about the scene outside the window and the rink in the middle of the Fenway Park infield.

Although, he is just a casual fan of the game at this point because of his schedule, Taylor is clearly passing the game down to his children.

"They just want to get out and skate," Taylor said with a smile. "We'll be doing that. We'll grab some sticks and get out there."

He admitted to playing a little bit of hockey as a teenager -- like every other youngster in Massachusetts -- and also of still paying attention to the Bruins. But he is completely transfixed by the setting of this Winter Classic.

"I think they should do more of this. I know it's a bear to get this thing set up; but if they could keep it going, we could see more hockey in Fenway -- which is an excellent thing," said Taylor.

After his Winter Classic performance, Taylor will begin preparing for his next tour, the "Troubadour Reunion" with Carol King. The world tour begins in Australia before coming back to the United States in May.

"You know, Carol and I worked together in the '70s a lot and we're dear friends," Taylor said. "We're busy, both of us, but when we get together; we're always saying when are we going to get back out; when are we going to play together again? Finally, a couple of years ago, we did an anniversary-type thing at the Troubadour Club (in Los Angeles), which, for us, was the jumping-off place. It was a turning point in both our careers. So, we decided to take it on the road."

 Tour dates are available here.

- Shawn P. Roarke



Dr. Ice is all cool today
1.1.10 | 11:44 a.m.


NHL ice guru Dan Craig showed a few smiles in the hours leading up to game time. He seemed relaxed and pleased during a NHL Network interview with Heidi Androl. Earlier, Craig told NHL.com that one chore today will be lowering the temperature generating by the League's ice truck slowly as the outside temperature rising slowly. He will be constant touch with the truck engineer.


Craig offered up a sort of word association for the first three Classics: Buffalo? "Stressful, praying." Chicago? "Nervous, but confident." Boston? "Calm confidence.


- Bob Condor


They're shippin' up to Boston

1.1.2009 | 11:30 a.m.

The Spectator Plaza here outside Fenway Park is jumping right now. There's plenty of fans lining up to be the first inside the park to catch a glimpse of the outdoor rink on which their hockey heroes will perform.

Fans of all ages and, of course, colors have invaded Boston and the famed ballpark that has housed the Red Sox since 1912. There were Bruins' fans wearing yellow and black, Flyers' fans donning orange and white and, believe it or not, even a few Devils' fans scattered among the thousands within the winter wonderland created for hockey fans.
Brandon Magnuson on stilts in Flyers gear and Brian Dwyer donning the Bruins attire.

Brian Dwyer of Medford, Mass., was on stilts in a Bruins uniform, posing with fans as they entered the plaza.

"This is awesome," Dwyer said. "Only problem I have is when I have to assume the butterfly position when stopping a puck."

 Brandon Magnuson, despite residing in Natick, Mass., was in Flyers gear on stilts.

"I'll put on the Flyers stuff; Brian is a friend of mine and actually got me the job," Magnuson said. "I'm working at the Winter Classic, having a good time and the people are loving it. I'm a Bruins fan, but I'll wear the Flyers stuff for this."

I came across Daniel Sletterink of Reading, Mass., and Andrew Santos of Andover. Both had their faces painted in Bruins' colors. Santos, 11, is actually a goalie for his hometown youth team.

Andrew Santos (L) and Daniel Sletterink
"I'm a big Tuukka Rask fan," Santos said. "This is great and I'm really looking forward to the game. Go Bruins."

--Mike G. Morreale


Special treatment for the B's
1.1.10 | 11 a.m.
The Bruins bus is getting a police escort from the Westin Waterfront (the team stayed here as if a road game) to Fenway Park. A normal 20-minute ride was sliced in half, 10 minutes door to door. These guys are pros.

- Dave Keon

Hopping on the Bruins bus
1.1.10 | 9:30 a.m.

There is a defenite buzz at Spectator Plaza, which hosted thousands of fans outside Fenway and will triple or quadruple that today. A cop is moving traffic and I lucked into a cab that unloaded a couple Bruins fans with equipment sticks and attitude. The cab tried to U-turn, but the cop was not happy. The cabbie had to go way out of his way, at least according to him. Must have been true as it took 15 minutes to get to the hotel. 

New Year's Day? It's a great day for hockey. The lobby is teeming with both Bruins and flyers fans. You know what to expect when the jersey you encounter belong to Thornton Lucic and Chara for Boston and Carcillo, Cote and Pronger for the Flyers.

Dan Paille is talking to our NHL.com video crew. He is playing in his second outdoor game, after participating in the first Winter Classic in Buffalo two years ago. Big Z (Zdeno Chara) just finished eating and is bummed that the bus doesn't leave for another half hour. He says he is ready and anxious to get going.

Milan Lucic just came in and looks a little down. Guys like Mike Ryder and Byron Bitz are bouncing around, excited. Tim Thomas has his game face on already. Not only is this a big game for his NHL team, the Bruins, but the Olympic announcement will come right after and he will finally know if he is heading to Vancouver to play the world's best and represent his country.

Dave Keon


Flyers on film
1.1.10 | 8:57 a.m.

Even early in the morning on New Year's Day, the rapier wit of NHL players and coaches cannot be dulled.

When Flyers All-Star winger Jeff Carter caught a glimpse of our camera, medical trainer Jim McCrossin informed him: "We've got a little breakfast movie going here."

Chirped Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette: "Food Network."

Landau and Vinciguerra immediately went to update their resumes with that culinary credit.

Seriously, a bowl-ful of thanks to the Flyers for allowing us a glimpse into their world this morning. Josh, Paul and I are now off to the ballpark for a breakfast of Fenway franks.

– John Dellapina


The Christmas, er, Classic Spirit.
1.1.10 | 8:45 a.m.

The Winter Classic is clearly living large. Santa Claus is walking the streets of Fenway, spotted just outside the Absolute Clubhouse near Gate D. Or at least a gentleman dressed as Santa Claus. The Boston Baked Blog’s official positon: There is a Santa Claus, and even he watches the Classic on Jan. 1. Enjoy the game, Kris.

– Bob Condor


Breakfast with the Flyers
1.1.10 | 8 a.m.

It's just eight hours into a new year and still five and a half hours until your work day officially begins. So are you taking the precious time remaining to sleep it off, er, blissfully saw wood until the wake-up call that any sane person wouldn't have set for before 10?

Not if you're Blair Betts.

The Philadelphia Flyers checking center - as responsible a player on the ice as exists in the NHL - apparently is just as diligent off the ice. At precisely 8 a.m., looking remarkably alert and sharply dressed in his suit and open-collar shirt, Betts is the first to arrive at the Flyers team meal at their downtown Boston hotel.

Betts beats even assistant coach Joe Mullen and Flyers medical trainer Jim McCrossin (albeit by only a couple of minutes) to the amply-stocked repast that should fortify the Flyers ambitious enough to attend for this afternoon's 2010 Bridgestone Winter Classic battle with the Boston Bruins at Fenway Park.

For the record, Betts goes for a large bowl of oatmeal, scrambled eggs, then came back for pancakes and pasta. As no-nonsense an eater as he is a player, Betts decides to skip the omelet station. 

Not the choice I would have made. But, to each his own.

Assistant coach Craig Berube, by the way, is more my kind of breakfast man. He makes a bee line to the omelet station upon entering the room - not unlike the way, when he skated for the Flyers, he took a direct route right to whatever opposing player dared rough up one of his teammates. 

Ian Laperriere is the second player to arrive - still energized about having experienced yesterday's family skate at Fenway with his sons and their pals.

– John Dellapina

Gameday (it starts early)
1.1.10 | 5:49 a.m.

Good sign. NHL ice guru Dan Craig is joking and making small talk with his crew members in the lobby of the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic headquarters hotel, the Westin Copley.  That Craig is not at the Fenway rink already can only mean one thing: All systems go.

5:57 a.m.

The first NHL Transportation bus leaves in three minutes. More than 30 people are already on board. It’s quiet, but no one is sleepy.

6 a.m. (sharp)

This first bus waits for no one. It pulls away just as the digital tick goes to 6 a.m. straight up.

6:11 a.m.

Dan Craig is rinkside, taking a quiet walk, straightening an entry door to the outer walkway around the rink. His footprints are the first on a light dusting of snow along the constructed path to the rink.

The ice has a wispy-thin layer of snow and frost. My first chills of the day, and nothing to do with the relatively-mild temperatures. The goose-bumps (some athletes call ‘em “chill-bumps”) derive from one simple emotion: That frosty layer reminds me of more winter mornings than I can possibly count when I was lucky enough to live basically across the street from the local outdoor frozen rink of my childhood.

6:18 a.m.

First official 2010 meeting of the NHL ice crew, just inside the Zamboni doors, which will be to Bruins goalie Tim Thomas’s left corner when he takes the ice in another seven hours or so for game start. Five men talk, two lean on shovels.

6:21 a.m.

Note to self. Believe it, Fenway Park, New Year’s Day.

6:28 a.m.

NBC has two trailers on site, just outside the ballpark ‘s outfield. One trailer is already filling with people.

6:32 a.m

First TV standup of the day appears to be about ready to be shot at the corner of Yawkey and Van Ness. It won’t be the last.

6:56 a.m

Walking into the NHL Events daily planning meeting that starts promptly at 7 a.m. sharp, Dan Craig is “feeling good about things.” The projected game-time temperature is 37 degrees.

“Thirty degrees is ideal,” says Craig. “But we will be just fine today.”

That this is the first mention of weather in today’s first blog entry tells you what you need to know. So far, so good.

7:00 a.m

Don Renzulli, who manages this event top to bottom for the NHL, wishes the 50-plus NHL employees and contractors in attending a Happy 2010, then starts the daily meeting by announcing the 37 degrees and notes that intermittent light snow is expecting in the evening.

Renzulli finishes the meeting by saying, “There is a lot we have done and still more to do, so don’t drop your guard now. Think through every decision (Now there’s a solid New Year’s resolution if you are looking for one) and let’s make it three in a row.”

– Bob Condor

Sturm a big fan of Fenway
12.31.2009 | 8:00 a.m. ET

As a member of the Bruins now for five seasons, German-born Marco Sturm knows full well the impact Fenway Park has on the City of Boston.

And even though he wasn't born and raised in Beantown, he admits he'll get plenty of chills when he skates upon the ice Thursday morning for the team's practice session at the famed ballpark.

"Fenway mean as much to some non-American players as it does American players," Sturm said. "Personally, this game is significant, yes. I've been here for a while and I know Fenway. It's one of the best ballparks and being here five years, I know how big it is. Other Euros don't think that way, but I sure do."

Boston is scheduled to take the ice at Fenway at 11:30 a.m. Thursday morning -- and they'll use that time to become acclimated to the skating surface and their surroundings.

Sturm is looking forward to all the glitz and glamour of the New Year's Day game and playing in front of a packed house.

"Not too many guys played outdoors because it's pretty cold and windy," he said. "I expect that in Fenway but it's also going to be great. The guys are really gearing up for it."

--Mike G. Morreale

Hot stoves and hard rock
12.30.2009 | 6:59 p.m. ET

Thirty years removed from the white-hot rivalry that shaped hockey in the 1970s, the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins still aren't all that fond of each other.

Sure, they have respect for each other; but the scars of years of battling for Eastern Conference supremacy have left their scars. And, Dave Schultz and Joe Watson of the Philadelphia Flyers and a trio of Bruins -- Derek Sanderson, John "Pie" McKenzie and Ken Hodge -- made sure the battles were not forgotten during Wednesday's Bruins/Flyers Alumni Hot Stove Discussion at the EMC Club at Fenway Park.
The players discussed the epic battles between the "Big Bad Bruins" and the Broad Street Bullies" Flyers of that era, a running war that defined the decade.

Sanderson started before the show even started, talking about Schultz's penalty minutes and saying that the Flyers had a "bunch of animals" on that team.

Fortunately, Sanderson was just joshing and it was the perfect kick off to 45 minutes of story-telling and laughs. One of the highlights was Sanderson and Hodge talking about how Bobby Orr was not only the best player they ever played with, but also the toughest. Sanderson basically said Orr played ion pain virtually non-stop from his sophomore season.

They also told some entertaining stories about what a good fighter Orr was, including a bout he had against Schultz, who also fought Terry O'Reilly twice in the same game as the Orr fight.

In a perfect end to a perfect day at the ballpark -- which included the Team Canada announcement, the media skate and the hot stove session -- the Dropkick Murphys did their sound check for Saturday's opening number and yours truly got to hear Shipping Up to Boston several times (and let me say, don't be late to the game because they are going to rock the house) while filming his own evening NHL.com video report from atop the Green Monster.

What a great day!


Cutting through the Fenway ice
12.30.2009 | 4 p.m. ET

We survived! That's right, the NHL.com crew took to the Fenway Park ice for this afternoon's media skate and, amazingly there wasn't a single spill, never mind injury.

It was a brilliant afternoon and the 45-minute skate proved the perfect tonic for what has been an amazingly busy day here at the Winter Classic.

Amazing is probably the only way to explain the event, although perhaps surreal fits, as well. To be gliding around the Fenway Park infield with the Green Monster looming over your shoulder is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Boston's Ken Hodge and Philadelphia's Dave Schultz and Joe Watson were on the ice this afternoon, as well. Watson was simply amazed at the experience, exclaiming at one point: "This is perfect."

And, it was almost universally agreed by members of the media that were at last year's media skate at Wrigley Field that the Fenway Park ice is in even better shape than last year's ice -- a sentiment shared by Dan Craig.

Now, Craig just needs to wait to see what Mother Nature will bring his way. Forecasts call for a wintry mix to move in Thursday night and linger through Friday. There is a 70 percent chace of precipitation during that period. The intensity of the precipitation, more than the duration, is what will affect Craig, however.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Bruins announce rosters for Legends Classic
12.30.2009 | 11:10 a.m. ET


Cam Neely, Brian Leetch and Terry O'Reilly on the same ice playing in the same game as Kiefer Sutherland, Dennis Leary and Tim Robbins?

Yup, that'll be on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Fenway Park in the Boston Bruins AT&T Legends Classic.

Several former Bruins' greats and celebrities will be competing in their own version of the Winter Classic the day after the Flyers and Bruins play the real thing on New Year's Day. The net proceeds are going to the Boston Bruins Foundation, Hockey Fights Cancer and the Red Sox Foundation.

Former Bruins John Bucyk and Derek Sanderson along with actor/comedian Lenny Clarke will serve as the coaches. Milt Schmidt and Ed Sandford will participate in the ceremonial puck drop at center ice.

Here are the rosters:

BLACK: Bob Beers, Andy Brickley, Lyndon Byers, Cleon Daskalakis, Gary Doak, Joel Finley, Mark Finley, Charlie Jacobs, Claude Julien, Neal McDonough, John McKenzie, Rick Middleton, Terry O’Reilly, Bob Sweeney, Don Sweeney, Kiefer Sutherland.

GOLD: Ken Casey, Ken Hodge, Bobby Farrelly, Pat LaFontaine, Denis Leary, Brian Leetch, Ken Linseman, Bob Miller, Jay Miller, Cam Neely, Brad Park, Tim Robbins, Dave Schultz, Rick Smith, Tom Songin, Tom Werner

Tickets are still available.

-- Dan Rosen

Craig enjoying Fenway's air show
12.29.2009 | 4:20 p.m. ET

Ice guru Dan Craig has spent a lot of time inside Fenway Park during the past three weeks working to perfect the ice surface. As a result, he has become quite familiar with the old ballpark's many charms.

During Tuesday afternoon's media briefing, Craig talked about his favorite feature of Fenway.

"The hawks that live here; they are awesome," said Craig, a noted outdoorsman.

On an almost daily basis, Craig and his crew take a few minutes out of their busy days to appreciate Mother Nature's creatures floating and diving overhead.

"They keep us entertained," Craig said. "The hawks that live here, they take care of whatever rodents are running around here. They put on an air show for us today. That is something that, not being from this area, I understand they are residents of this ballpark and that is one of those things that is unique for me."

-- Shawn Roarke

No need to worry now
12.29.2009  4:05 p.m. ET

Not surprisingly, today's afternoon media briefing with Don Renzulli and Dan Craig was focused on analyzing weather forecasts and preparing for contingency plans should New Years Day be a washout.

While weather is always a concern, Renzulli went about easing the tension.

"Now we are looking at light drizzle, temperature dropping (for New Years Day)," Renzulli said. "It's kind of too early right now to decide what we are going to do. We have got to finish out our build-out phase and we will continue to monitor the weather. And we are prepared for a number of different issues, and when we get to Thursday, we'll make a call based on the current weather forecast. But right now looks like we'll be good to go and play the game."

Renzulli said if a decision is going to be made to postpone the game until Saturday, in a perfect world it will be made before the stadium fills up with fans.

"Once the Commissioner gets here, we will meet with him and Dan (Craig) and Colin Campbell and evaluate what we think the weather is going to be; and if we think there is a good chance we can get this game in, we'll do everything in our power to do that," Renzulli said. "If they are calling for a foot and a half of snow, it’s a little bit different. Three days out, I think it's kind of hard to make that decision.

"It's not like baseball where you can get in, you know, five and a half innings and it's a full game. We want to play three full periods, and we are going to make the decision based on that."

-- Dan Rosen

Crisp, sunny weather greets Boston
12.29.2009 / 10:28 AM ET

The City of Boston woke up to freezing temperatures dropped even further by gusts of frigid winds and sun beating down on the majestic Charles River Tuesday morning. Believe it or not, these are welcome signs for Dan Craig and his ice crew, who have been challenged by Mother Nature throughout this rink-build at Fenway Park.

I just walked around outside the stadium, both on Yawkey Way and Brookline Ave, and a brisk wind was slamming me in the face. It is cold, and it's only going to get colder today. We're hearing it's supposed to drop down to 10 degrees. How that will affect the ice crew remains to be seen, but I don't believe it will too much.

The lines and logos have all been installed and they are currently working the hoses on the auxiliary rink out in center field.

More than anything, the frigid cold will likely affect the workers around the ice, the people creating the Winter Classic feel with signage and snow.

The workers are out there steaming away, and we witnessed them laying down a foundation of white foam around the infield by home plate. Since a blizzard is not in the immediate forecast, there's a good possibility that they will be making snow and putting it down on the field to create that winter feel.

The video scoreboard has been erected and is operational (a Garfield cartoon was playing on it when I was out there just before). Signage is up inside and outside the stadium. There is a really cool stage in the shape of home plate that is covering home plate. It's going to be used by James Taylor, Daniel Powter and the Dropkick Murphys.

As I type, the parking lot out on Brookline Ave is being transformed into Spectator Plaza, a place where fans can congregate and celebrate the Winter Classic on both Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. There will be live musical acts, Bruins alumni, hockey-themed games and attractions, food and beverages and so much more.

We will have a story on everything Spectator Plaza will offer and how it all came about later on today. We will also be hearing from Dan Craig and Don Renzulli about how the last 24 hours have gone.

One thing I have realized through all of this is while the weather will always be the main topic of discussion; none of us can predict it so why even try. It's part of what makes the Winter Classic so special and such a unique hockey game.

You just never know.

Stay tuned. Lots more to come as more of us from NHL.com arrive in Boston.

-- Dan Rosen

Weathering the storm
12.28.2009 / 3:19 PM ET

If Dan Craig has learned one thing in building outdoor rinks for the NHL, it is to not get wrapped up in the weather.

So, Craig was not too concerned as rain -- instead of the forecasted snow -- pelted his pristine ice surface Monday afternoon at Fenway Park.

"Weather is pretty unpredictable and we take our shot when we can," Craig said during Monday's media briefing at Fenway Park.

Craig was talking specifically about the postponement of his plans to put the Winter Classic logos on the ice surface Monday afternoon, a plan that was pushed back when rain started to fall in earnest right around 1 p.m.

"We were going to do logos, but Mother Nature decided she wanted us to wait on her, so we are waiting out this little squall," Craig said.

The ice crew worked through the night, waiting out Sunday's rain, to get the hockey lines down on the rink, so Craig and his crew understand patience.

Immediately after NBC's Mike Milbury did his hit during halftime of the Sunday Night Football game, Craig's crew scraped the ice clean and got to work on putting down and sealing the hockey lines. The process was done early this morning.

Now, he is looking at a similar timetable with the logos.

"We had a solid rain yesterday and it took us a solid four hours to set up last night and we were totally solid by 6 (a.m.)," Craig said. "We're anticipating about the same thing today. Hopefully, the rain will back off somewhere around 2 or 3 and sometime around 6 p.m. tonight, it will be frozen up solid so that we will be able to logos started about 6."

But, waiting on weather is nothing new for Craig or Don Renzulli, the senior vice president of NHL Events. Renzulli oversees all aspects of the Winter Classic.

Renzulli checks the weather at least hourly, but he knows it is scant consolation for the vagaries that are part and parcel of a New England winter.

"(The weather) changes daily," Renzulli said Monday. "Yesterday, we were expecting 1-2 inches (of snow). Today that didn't happen. We were expecting 50 percent chance of snow on game day. Right now, it looks like rain and about 37.

"I guess I'm used to waiting a day or so because it will change. We'll see what happens and then we'll adjust for it in the next couple of days or nights."

But, patience does not mean inactivity.

The crews of both Craig and Renzulli have been busy throughout Monday, regardless of the weather. There is a timetable to keep and Renzulli says it is being kept.

"We have all the major components down," Renzulli said. "We have an audio system in and we have two video boards. One is completely done and the other is going in now. Our décor is in the process of going up. The outside of the building is completely done and if you were out (in the stadium); you are starting to see the inside; so we are moving along pretty well now."

Plus, Renzulli's people began working in earnest on Spectator Plaza on Monday to make sure it is ready for fans on the morning of New Year's Eve.

"Pretty much, everything is on line and on schedule for where we are," Renzulli said.

And, in this rink-building business, both Craig and Renzulli know that is all they can ask at this point in time.

- Shawn P. Roarke



Every once in a while, it helps to have a reminder of what the game of hockey -- and particularly this Winter Classic -- means to people outside of the NHL offices.

I was afforded that opportunity Sunday night when Metal Blade Records hooked me up with a visit from Greg Weeks, the bassist for Massachusetts-based rockers, The Red Chord. I'm a fan of these guys and it was awesome to spend a few hours with Weeks.

Weeks lives in South Shore, just outside Boston, and rolled into the city last night to meet for dinner. We took a quick tour of Fenway and, to put it mildly, Weeks was over the moon.

"My god, this is amazing," he said. "I've been coming to Red Sox games since I was a kid and now there is an ice rink in the middle of Fenway Park. I can't believe this. My dad is so jealous that I am here right now."

Throughout the night, which featured a hearty dinner at Charlie's Kitchen in Harvard Square (try the Guinness double cheeseburger!), we talked about what the Winter Classic and Fenway Park means to Boston.

There was a long discussion about the legends -- players like Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski -- that have patrolled left field under the shadow of the Green Monster, which now looms above the Winter Classic playing surface.

Weeks talked about how the Red Sox and the Bruins, as well as the Celtics and Patriots, keep him tied to home as he goes on tour after tour. In fact, The Red Chord just got done with a tour less than two weeks ago, supporting its new disc, Fed Through the Teeth Machine. They will be back on the road early in 2010 for a headlining North American tour.

During the conversation, it was striking about the impact sports -- and its big events, like this Winter Classic -- have on fans.

As someone that has played music all over the world before adoring fans and has shared the stage with several childhood musical heroes, it would be understandable if Weeks were jaded about things. But, he is not.

He remains passionate about his music, talking about the "privilege it is to play for the kids very night."

And, he is passionate about the Boston sports scene, holding court about big names like Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and Zdeno Chara, as well as the bit players like Boston reliever Manny Delcarmen (a local boy done good) and retired Bruins tough guys like Lyndon Byers and Chris Nilan.

For me, the evening ended too soon, but was a valuable reminder to not become bogged down in the details that make covering the Winter Classic actual work and remember what a privilege it is to be here and detail the goings-on for you, the fans.

What a sight!
12.28.2009 | 8:56 AM ET

Good morning from Boston.

Thanks to a 7 a.m. meeting Monday, I got the privilege of watching the sun rise over Fenway Park. It was an awe-inspiring site as the sun climbed over the façade and bathed the rink in its glow.

I never like getting up at 6:15 a.m., but will do it for the rest of this week -- and the sight of the sunrise over Fenway will certainly serve as motivation. I'll try to get some pictures tomorrow, although they likely won't do the spectacle justice -- especially with my limited photo skills.

Today will be a busy day behind the scenes at Fenway as several projects will get under way.

Nick Gennarelli from Events started the load-out for what promises to be an amazing Spectator Plaza experience before the sun even came up this morning. His group will be at it throughout the day.

Inside the park, work will continue on the video boards and work will begin on the stage at home plate, which will host the pre-game performers announced this morning. James Taylor will sing the Star-Spangled Banner, Daniel Powter will perform O Canada and the Dropkick Murphys, a Boston institution, will provide the pre-game entertainment.

The workers will also be putting up protective netting at both ends of the ice.

Dan Craig's crew is already busy flooding the ice this morning, taking advantage of the near-freezing temperatures here as the outer fringes of the outer flow start to reach the New England area.

Craig's group got new lines on the surface Sunday night and will paint logos this afternoon. He is trying to find a window of availability outside the rain forecast for this afternoon. That rain is expected to turn to snow in the evening hours as temperatures begin to fall rapidly.

I'm off in a few minutes to do a video update from Fenway Park that will be up on the site later. My first one, from yesterday afternoon, can be seen here.

- Shawn P. Roarke

A Winter Classic wonderland
12.27.2009 | 4:25 PM ET

Don Renzulli, senior vice president of NHL Events, couldn't help but like what he saw as he reported to Fenway Park on Sunday morning.

Everywhere he looked as he approached Fenway, Winter Classic décor greeted him.

The parking sign near the Boston Beer Works across from Fenway is usually decorated as a baseball. Today, it was a circular Winter Classic logo. The entrances to the Boston Red Sox offices, on Yawkey Way, were wrapped in a Winter Classic motif.

Inside the stadium, workers were busy putting up signage on the bullpen walls and the facades throughout the stadium.

According to Renzulli, the decorating will continue until Dec. 30, but Fenway and its environs are definitely starting to take on a Winter Classic theme.

"There are a lot of stores in the area that have Winter Classic banners and material and that is pretty interesting," Renzulli told NHL.com late Sunday afternoon.

All in all, Renzulli is very happy with the way Boston has taken to its moment in the Winter Classic spotlight.

"Every year, (the vibe) is getting a little bigger, and that is only natural," Renzulli said. "I think this community is a little more hyped up than Chicago was. The Blackhawks were amped about it when it was in Chicago, but this has spread a little more into the community, I think."

Renzulli also believes that the ability for Bostonians to skate on the ice surface inside Fenway has helped with the hype here.

"We've had five days of skating and a lot of people have come through these doors," Renzulli said.

In other developments Sunday, workers have begun erecting the main video board, which is a 38 by 22-foot edifice that will go atop the Green Monster. The broadcast positions for both NBC and CBC have been finished, as well as the studio locations for CBC, NBC and the NHL Network

Work also continued on the auxiliary rink in center field.

In fact, you can check out all the improvements inside Fenway on NHL.com's exclusive Webcam. Or, you can tune in tonight as NBC will do an in-game hit from Fenway during its Sunday Night Football telecast, cutting to analyst Mike Milbury, who will be on the Fenway Park ice surface.

- Shawn P. Roarke



Rain, rain went away
12.27.2009 | 3:46 PM ET

The rain is gone!

This morning was a typical New England day -- overcast and rainy. But, a strong wind from the southwest has blown out the precipitation and turned the skies blue.

Now, as evening approaches, the sun is fighting to permanently break through the clouds before setting for the day. And, it is unseasonably warm -- temperatures hovering in the mid-50's, but none of that concerns ice guru Dan Craig.

Craig returned Saturday afternoon to Boston from a too-short Christmas vacation to find that the Fenway park ice survived the Christmas break without any major issues.

"Everything looks good," Craig told NHl.com Sunday morning as he stood in centerfield of Fenway Park, surveying his kingdom. "We're right on schedule."

The ice was a little watery because of the higher temperatures and a steady overnight rain. Usually, a moderate amount of rain is welcome because it helps with the ice-making process -- eliminating the need to hose down the surface as often -- but this time around, the unseasonably warm temperatures have slowed down that process.

But, Craig is too experienced to let one day of unusual weather alter his outlook.

"We had a day like this last year in Chicago," Craig said. "It was almost 60 degrees and it rained, but then it got cold again and everything was fine."

It appears that Mother Nature is planning to repeat her history this time around.

According to weather forecasts, temperatures are expected to drop to near freezing tonight and stay below 40 during the day tomorrow as rain remains a possibility. Snow is expected tomorrow night.

There is also a chance that the blizzard battering the Midwest now could visit the Boston area later this week; but, according to weather forecasters, it is too early to say anything definitive at this point.

- Shawn P. Roarke


We're back!
12.27.2009 | 8:06 AM ET

Good morning from Boston as NHL.com kicks it Winter Classic coverage into full gear -- if that is even possible considering all our coverage already this month of the New Year's Day event at Fenway Park -- with a full-time presence in Boston from now until Jan. 3.

It's rainy and grey here in Boston as I look at my Copley Square hotel window; but there is still chunks of ice floating lazily down the Charles River. This mini heat wave, which will push temperatures into the mid-40s today, according to the weather forecast, is set to disappear overnight and temps will dip back around freezing.

Snow is expected Monday night into Tuesday, as well as on Friday, the day of the game.

Speaking of snow, I saw Dan Craig, our resident ice magician, in the lobby last night, meaning he made it in from Wisconsin, despite the brutal winter weather paralyzing the Midwest.

"It's just snow," he said with a smile when asked about the difficulty of getting back to Boston.

He was waiting in the lobby for his ice-making crew to arrive from all corners of North America. The group, as a whole, headed over to Fenway a little while ago (about 7 a.m.) to begin putting the finishing touches on the ice surface.

Of course, Craig had headed over to Fenway upon landing Saturday morning and he reported that he liked what he saw and that the ice surface Had held up well during his hiatus, which lasted a little more than 48 hours.

I'll be over to check up on his progress a little later today, hopefully after posting a story on the Swedish Olympic roster, which is supposed to be announced today.

- Shawn P. Roarke

Fighting? There's no fighting in the Winter Classic!
12.23.2009 | 3:00 PM ET

At least that's been the case during the first two games played between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008 and the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings in 2009.

But this year's incarnation of the Philadelphia Flyers are dropping their gloves so often that some players should consider not even wearing gloves at all when they take the ice.

Ian Laperriere, Daniel Carcillo and Arron Asham have a combined 26 majors under their belts, just about all of them fighting majors. But it's impossible to dance without a partner.

Enter Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton.

The bomb-throwing scrapper from Oshawa, Ontario has racked up more fighting majors (9) than minor penalties (8) this season.

For the people dying to see a fight in Fenway Park that won't result in ejections, suspensions, and Don Zimmer being dropped on his head by Pedro Martinez -- is this the year?

"I don't know. It could be," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. "It all depends on how the game goes. For sure, both teams are well known for their physical play and just we'll see how the game goes.

"It's totally up to the players and obviously, like I said, you know, in different situations, the teams react differently."

You can't expect Chara to come out and wildly endorse fighting, but at least he didn't rule out the possibility of it.

And with Laperriere, Carcillo, Asham and Thornton involved, some New Year's Day fisticuffs seems more likely than ever.

- Dave Lozo


Laviolette looks at Classic as opportunity
12.18.2009 | 2:20 PM ET

Peter Laviolette wouldn't care if there was a game on Jan. 1 or not. The venue, be it Fenway Park, TD Garden or the Charles River wouldn't matter either.
 
All the Flyers' boss wants for Christmas is his team to get on a roll heading into 2010.
 
Ah, but there's the rub. Laviolette can use the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic as motivation to do just that, to get his team going.
 
He said on a conference call Friday that the Winter Classic can be viewed as any other big event, be it the All-Star Game or even the playoffs. You want your team to be playing well going into it because it makes that event that much more enjoyable.
 
The Flyers, though, are just 2-5-1 since Laviolette took over for John Stevens on Dec. 4 and are just 3-11-1 in their last 15 games. They still have six games left, including the next two at home and four straight on the road, before the Winter Classic.
 
That's enough time to get things moving in the right direction, and a streaking Flyers' team would only make for a better show come New Year's Day.
 
"We need to play a little bit better than we are right now, put some more wins in the column," Laviolette said. "I've liked some of the things we've done in the last couple games and we need to continue to take steps forward here."
 
Laviolette also has his own selfish reasons for wanting the Flyers to be on a hot streak going into the Winter Classic. He's essentially taking his new team to his home, or at least his home area.
 
Laviolette is a native of Franklin, Mass., a suburb of Boston. He fondly remembers the days of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and the Big Bad Bruins. He has been to Fenway Park as a fan for Red Sox games, though he only got his first tour of the ballpark this past Sunday.
 
He said he has already received 21 requests for tickets from family members and the list is even bigger when you include friends. He said he's heaped most of those responsibilities to his wife's shoulders, calling her "the cruise director."
 
"My family gets to come to the game," he said. "My kids will be there. I think it does make it a little bit more special because I'm a local guy."

- Dan Rosen

Thoughts from a veteran of outdoor hockey
12.17.2009 | 4:30 PM ET

St. Louis Blues goalie Ty Conklin has been there and done that.

As a veteran of three outdoor NHL games -- the 2003 Heritage Classic in Edmonton with the hometown Oilers, the 2008 Winter Classic in Buffalo for the Pittsburgh Penguins and the 2009 game in Chicago with the Detroit Red Wings -- the 33-year-old Conklin has been through the wars and survived the elements.

"I think they all have their special moments," Conklin told the media during a conference call. "You know, in Edmonton, everything was just so brand new. It was the first time for it, so there was just kind of the shock factor when you walked out.

"The one in Buffalo … it couldn't have been scripted any better. You had the snow and it goes to a shootout and Sid Crosby scores the shootout winner. Then last year, two really big rivals in Chicago and Detroit, playing in Wrigley Field in a baseball stadium for the first time. The weather was perfect. It was probably the best of the games, the quality of the play. They all have their special moments I thought."

As a former collegian at the University of New Hampshire, he also knows the City of Boston is going to rally around the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 1 when the Bruins play the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park.

"I think Boston has a lot of hockey fans," Conklin said. "A lot of good players come out of there, not just NHL. There are tons of college hockey players with Hockey East, and even Division III hockey. I can't imagine it not being really exciting.

"And being at Fenway, I think the people in Boston are pretty proud of that ballpark," he continued. "Fenway is always packed and I think, just as far as sports fans go, Boston sports fans are real loyal, and they're going to be there for sure."

Conklin faced extreme windchill temperatures in Edmonton in a 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, turned aside 36 of 37 shots and two of three shootout attempts in a 2-1 victory in the snow at Buffalo and made 33 saves in a 6-4 win last year at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

His advice to the two starting goalies in this year's Classic.

"I don't know if it's advice because it's something that they'll do without even thinking about it -- and that's just enjoy it," he said. "I just tried to go out and enjoy it. I think at the end of the day, you have to realize, though, it is two points and it's a game that'll count on the schedule. It's obviously two teams that are probably pretty hungry for those two points. So that's something that I wouldn't say was lost in the first game, but I sensed that the two points were maybe a little more in the last two games.

"I think good weather will help that, too. The better the weather is, the easier it is to actually get into the game and feel comfortable out there."

- Mike G. Morreale

Boston defenseman Stuart to miss Classic
12.17.2009 | 3:50 PM ET

Boston Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart, who suffered a broken sternum on Monday in a loss to the Flyers, is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
 
Stuart has played in 214 consecutive games and has not missed a shift on the ice since the 2007-08 season. Unfortunately for Stuart, the injury will keep the Rochester, Minn., native from participating in the Winter Classic. Stuart (6-foot-2, 218 pounds) had been a pretty formidable presence along the blue line for the Bruins this season. He was fifth on the team with 53 hits and second with 42 blocked shots while averaging just over 16 minutes a game.

To compensate for the loss, Andy Wozniewski has been recalled, along with Adam McQuaid.

- Mike G. Morreale

Hal Gill is a fan of Fenway
12.16.2009 | 3:10 PM ET

When Montreal Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill received word that the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic was being held at the ballpark he spent practically his entire life, he became a little jealous.

Gill, a native of Concord, Mass., who played collegiate hockey at Providence College and spent eight seasons with the Boston Bruins, knows the City of Boston is going to go nuts for hockey at Fenway Park come Jan. 1 when the hometown Bruins battle the Philadelphia Flyers.

"I thought for sure it would have been Montreal playing Boston," Gill said tongue in cheek. "So it was a little upsetting. That's going to be a great event for sure. The fans are going to be all over that. That stadium is pretty awesome. Fenway Park is a venue the City of Boston just loves and to have a changeover like that and create a different aspect and side of it will be a lot of fun for everyone involved."

Gill, who won a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season before signing with Montreal in the off-season, knows how intense the Flyers-Bruins rivalry has become over the years.

"It was always intense -- always who's tougher and that kind of thing," Gill said. "It was fun to be a part of that and I think there's a lot of those rivalries around the NHL, but that's one of the special ones."

- Mike G. Morreale

Fun time for 'This Old House' crew
12.15.2009 | 4:50 PM ET

This Old House, the Boston-based Emmy Award-winning series on home renovation, is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary on television and airs nationally on PBS. Most of the on-air talent has been with the program more than 20 years as well.
 
One of those crew members is Roger Cook, the show's landscape contractor who visited Fenway Park on Tuesday with several colleagues to chronicle the construction of a rink for the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. Awed by the opportunity to stand on the field at Fenway Park, Cook surveyed the scene like he just won the Massachusetts lottery. He couldn't resist running his hand along the pristine grass field in areas that weren't covered by construction materials to protect the playing surface. "Can I make a grass angel?" he jokingly asked.
 
Despite his many years of working on television, and perhaps awestruck from his surroundings, Cook flubbed his lines several times during shooting. "Doing the work is the easy part -- when I have a shovel in my hands, when I'm digging a hole. Doing the stuff I do every day," he said. "The walking and talking on camera, that's the hard part. Getting all the words right, the way everyone wants them, looking into the camera, being in the right spot. That's not what we do every day."
 
Not to mention Cook wasn't looking to rush off the field anytime soon as he was observing the army of 200 workers challenged with building the rink. Even with all the building materials on hand, Cook naturally was taken with the grass field.
 
"It's the second week of December and look at the color on this field. It's absolutely beautiful. Immaculate," he said. "The groundskeeper here is David Mellor; he does an unbelievable job. He has a book out and I've read it cover to cover four times."
 
After filming a shoot in right field with the fabled Green Monster as his backdrop, Cook rattled off the names of his Red Sox heroes. "To stand out here … Carl Yastrzemski, Tony Conigliaro, Rico Petrocelli, Carlton Fisk, Jim Lonborg … I can go on and on," he said. "You're standing in the same spots they stood in. It sends chills up my spine to be here."
 
At the end of one of Cook's segments, which will air on the NHL Network, he looked into the camera and asked, "Do you believe they want to put a hockey rink right here?" while pointing to the outfield grass. It's going to happen, and Jan. 1 is fast approaching.
 
- Rocky Bonanno

A Daly view

12.14.2009 | 10:30 PM ET

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic with Don LeGreca and E.J. Hradek Monday morning.

Daly, who was flying out to Pebble Beach, Calif. for the NHL board of governors meetings in the afternoon, feels this year's event at Fenway Park in Boston might even surpass the energy and excitement of the first two Classics held at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. in 2008 and Wrigley Field in Chicago in 2009.

"I think when we originally conceived the Winter Classic, there was a lot of debate, internally, where you would put that game," Daly said. "Where could you could fit it into a crowded sports market place, where could you get real visibility for that game. Our broadcast partner, NBC, had a window on New Year's Day and they had been working with us for a number of years trying to get us to use that window for an outdoor game. Ultimately, we decided to do that and clearly we had great success in (Orchard Park) and greater success in (Chicago) and, I think, by all indications, we're going to have tremendous success in (Boston)."

Daly admitted the Winter Classic has become an event that will remain a staple on New Year's Day.

"I think it's now cemented itself," Daly said. "I don't think there's any movement off January 1 for the Winter Classic."

When asked if Yankee Stadium in The Bronx was a possibility for next year's extravaganza, Daly remained noncommittal.

"I'm not sure there is an inside track for next year," he said. "At some point, we'd like to be in a position where we announce these games several years in advance, similar to how the NFL makes announcements and bids for the Super Bowl in advance. But we're not there yet. We're working to maximize matchups, ratings, location -- all those things. Especially in the infancy of a new product -- we need to continue to kind of micromanage and control it right now."

- Mike G. Morreale

Looking good
12.14.2009 | 07:05 PM ET


Monday night is the last time the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins meet before the 2010 bridgestone/NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day and both teams used the pre-game skate to not only make a fashion statement, but give the TD Garden crowd a sneak peak of what awaits Jan. 1.

Both teams wore Winter Classic toques throughout the 17-minute warmup period. For Boston, both goalies -- Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask -- wore the toques over their goalie masks, a la Jose Theodore in the Heritage Classic. The Flyer goalies passed on the toques.

Skaters from both teams wore the toques in place of their helmets, with Philadelphia's Dan Carcillo and Scott hartnell cutting the most striking figures with their flowing locks billowing out of the toques.

- Shawn P. Roarke

Big Papi joins fight club
12.14.2009 | 03:33 PM ET

Shawn Thornton checked out his soon-to-be digs at Fenway Park on Sunday afternoon and already had his eye on which locker he would occupy in the cramped Boston Red Sox dressing room.

He wants to settle in to the stall that Dave "Big Papi" Ortiz -- the Red Sox's personable slugger -- calls home throughout the summer.

It seems that Thornton and Ortiz have a budding friendship brewing over their shared love of the fistic aspect of hockey, an aspect that Thornton excels at for the Bruins.

Thornton told NHL.com the story of their kinship at Monday's morning skate.

"Big Papi came to a game a couple weeks ago and he likes fighting and I got into a fight that game and the next day I'm sitting on my couch at like 7 p.m. and my doorbell rang and Big Papi had sent over a bat signed to me; so he is my new favorite baseball player. It said you're a bad (guy) or something like that and then he signed it.

"I was like a kid on Christmas. I don't get wound up too much, but that was pretty exciting. I don't know if I was supposed to send something back. I don't think he wants anything to do with me. That was really nice of him and he's bought my friendship -- I'm a Big Papi fan, through and through."

But, his bid to occupy Ortiz's dressing room digs may run into a road block. It seems Ortiz has a double-stall locker setup befitting someone that goes by the moniker of Big Papi.

Thornton seemed crestfallen when he learned that piece of news, understanding that such palatial digs may not be the province of role players such as himself.

"Big Z (Zdeno Chara) or one of the goalies might have to get it. That'll be too bad."

Actually, Thornton could care less where he sits. He just wants to be involved in the game, which will be a lifelong memory

"Now that it is getting closer, it's pretty exciting. It's only a couple of weeks away, so it's creeping up on us pretty quick. I'm pretty pumped for it."

- Shawn P. Roarke


Bruins announce Fenway First Skate
12.14.2009 | 03:08 PM ET

Talk about a kick-off party.

The Boston Bruins take control of the Winter Classic ice surface on Dec. 18 and have planned a monster event to kick off a week's worth of festivities.

Called the First Skate at Fenway, the club will assemble many of the biggest names from its rich history to take a twirl on the brand-new ice surface

Ray Bourque, Cam Neely, Terry O'Reilly and Bobby Orr are among the stars that will christen the Fenway rink in Friday morning's event.

That quartet alone is enough to get the pulse rate of a Bruins fan racing. Now add in players like Lyndon Byers, Cleon Daskalakis, Gary Doak, Ken Hodge, Ken Linseman, John McKenzie, Rick Middleton, Jay Miller, Brad Park, Milt Schmidt, Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney and Boston Bruins Foundation Director of Development Bob Sweeney and you have quite the coming-out party.

The First Skate participants will head from TD Garden to Fenway in a caravan that will consist of trolleys, the Bruins Hummer, and a Zamboni, a procession designed to represent the transition of Bruins hockey from the TD Garden to Fenway Park.

The event will also feature 15 youth hockey players from the Boston area who were selected by the Bruins organization.

--Shawn P. Roarke


Sweet ride to Boston, Fenway
12.14.2009 | 11:30 AM ET

After staying up until midnight only to watch my Giants lose to Philadelphia, 45-38, I had a solid four hours of sleep before the alarm went off. I had to catch a 4:55 a.m. train out of my hometown just so I could catch a 6:20 a.m. train bound for Boston out of New York Penn Station.
 
And, through it all I know this much: You all don't care about my travels or what time I got up this morning or how much sleep I got.
 
You want to know about preparations and newsworthy items surrounding the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. And, that is why I am here, sitting in the Absolut Club at Fenway Park, which is now serving as the media work room.
 
Yes, I'm alone in here as the actual media isn't expected to arrive until 1 o'clock this afternoon. However, since I am both media and NHL staff, well, I get some special privileges. Yup, awesome, I know.
 
Anyway, just a few moments ago I watched a crew of about 20 people working to lay down the ice panels on the foundation of the rink. Another three guys were using squeegees to clear off any ice and water residue from the foundation that hadn't yet been covered by ice panels.
 
I'm about to head out to the field now to start working on a story on the ice crew. All of these guys I'm sure have interesting stories to tell and I'll try to grab a few of them, but the last thing I want to do is take them away from their work.
 
Just like I'm here for a purpose, so are they and theirs seems infinitely more important than mine.

My colleague, Shawn Roarke, is over at TD Garden chatting with the Flyers and Bruins, who play tonight.
 
More later…

-- Dan Rosen


Ryder wants warmer weather
12.12.2009 | 5:09 PM ET

Michael Ryder loved playing in the Heritage Classic in 2003, the granddaddy of the Winter Classic.

Ryder, then a young player with the Montreal Canadiens, was part of the history-making venture at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium that saw the visiting Canadiens defeat the host Edmonton Oilers, 4-3, in the first outdoor game in NHL history.

So, he is very excited to get a second chance at playing outside. This time, though, he hopes at least one thing is different from the 2003 game, which was played despite temperatures dipping down to minus-22 Fahrenheit during the game.

It should be warmer," Ryder told NHL.com, adding a hopeful chuckle. "We don't want that zero-degree weather. Maybe a few snow flakes falling, but that's it..

Ryder talked about the Heritage Classic and the upcoming 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic as he stood in the home dugout at Fenway park Sunday, checking out the progress Dan Craig's crew has made in the first three days of the process required to turn Fenway from a baseball field to a skating rink.

Ryder has been in Fenway just once before, as part of a tour when his youth team from Newfoundland was in town for a hockey tournament. Despite being in his second season with the Bruins, he has yet to check out the home town team at its famous ballpark.

Never seen a game here, but that's something I want to do -- something I need to do," Ryder said. You would have thought I would have seen a baseball game before I played a hockey game here."

- Shawn P. Roarke


Rask at the ready
12.12.2009 | 4:59 PM ET


Tuukka Rask probably had little notion that he could appear in the 2010 Winter Classic, but now the notion does not seem all that far-fetched.

The rookie goalie has been red-hot for Boston, going 9-2-2 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in his 14 appearances, including back-to-back wins against Toronto last week.

So, it is no longer quite as far-fetched that the 22-year-old apprentice could get the nod in such a high-profile affair as the Winter Classic. And, if he does, he says he will be ready, despite the challenges playing out of doors might present to the goalies.

"You would think so," Rask said when asked about weather affecting his skills if he plays in the game. "It all depends on the weather-- whether the sun is shining or the snow is falling -- whatever it is. It's exciting to see what it is going to be."

So, does Rask have any experience playing outdoors?

"A lot back home when I was a kid, but nothing like this," said Rask, on hand at Fenway Sunday afternoon, along with several other Bruins and Flyers for a tour of Fenway park as the rink build begins.

But, Rask is ready for the chance at history if it comes.

"I've been to a few games here to see the Red Sox," the goalie said. "It's always fun to see the games. It's going to be fun to be out there playing.

- Shawn P. Roarke


Wait, what's that white construction wrap out there?
12.10.2009 | 9:19 PM ET

It was as impossible to miss as the workers on the field this afternoon.

Covering a large section of seats in what is aptly named the Coca Cola Corner down the left field line at Fenway Park was a large white tent-like construction wrap. We wondered and speculated, but I kept on thinking, 'Geez, that can't be good.'

Later in the day, I found out speculating does me no good as a very good source told me it's nothing to worry about.

Don Renzulli, the NHL's Senior V.P. for Events, said in our exclusive interview that it's just part of the ongoing refurbishment of the 97-year-old ballpark and the seats will be ready to go and operational for the New Year's Day hockey game.

"They better be," Renzulli said.

He's right. They are darn good seats for this game.

"They have a plan where they are renovating all the seats out in left field," he explained. "All those seats were taken out and they are waterproofing all the bottoms and putting all the seats back in. They did that from dugout to dugout last winter. They are in progression of redoing this piece by piece.

"If you walked the lower concourse two weeks ago when I was here there was a hole 12 feet deep and 12 feet wide which was the underground tunnel from the visitor's clubhouse to the dugout. It was all leaking so they had to dig it all out, waterproof it and fill it in to get it ready for us."

I'm sold.

- Dan Rosen

The Cask comes through
12.10.2009 | 4:43 PM ET

Once the press conference with Dan Craig and Don Renzulli inside the interview room at Fenway Park was over, myself, Shawn Roarke and our intrepid Boston freelancer and friend, James Murphy, were about to eat our fingers off we were so hungry.

Do we write first and then eat something minor before going over to TD Garden for the game tonight?

Do we eat first and then write our stories from the Garden?

Of course, being the professional eaters and writers that we are, we found a way to master both at the same time.

Enter the famous Cask 'n Flagon on the corner of Brookline and Lansdowne between the Green Monster and the Mass Pike.

The joint, which promises to be packed to the gunnels on New Years Day, was quite empty when we walked in around 2:45 this afternoon. We asked if there was a wireless signal available, and after testing our computers we found there was.

Bonus.

For the next two-plus hours we sat in a corner table looking out onto the corner of Lansdowne and Brookline. We worked and ate. Since we were on the job, nobody indulged in any beverages of the seedy variety. Strictly Pepsi products at this table.

Fenway Park will be our home away from home for the Winter Classic, but Cask 'n Flagon may just turn into our home away from home away from home.

Keep that wireless signal as hot as the chowdah and we'll be back.

- Dan Rosen


Excitement builds for Wheeler

12.10.2009 | 3:01 PM ET

Blake Wheeler knows more than a little about outdoor hockey, having grown up in Minnesota -- land of a thousand frozen lakes come winter.

So, there is plenty for him to be excited about as the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic fast approaches.

By the time Blake Wheeler showed up for Boston's morning skate on Thursday, in preparation for that night's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, work was already underway to transform nearby Fenway park from one of the cathedrals of baseball into a New Year's Day hockey spectacle.

And, while Wheeler was thinking about the challenge that awaited that night, he admitted he also was thinking about the opportunity that awaits him at Fenway Park. He said Wednesday's stormy weather, which began with a few inches of snow, jumpstarted his anticipation.

"Yesterday, when it was a blizzard outside, I thought about (the Winter Classic)," Wheeler told NHL.com. "It's going to be a lot of fun. It's going to be a great experience to be a field level at Fenway, first and foremost. Then to be able to skate around and say you played at a game in Fenway will be an experience of a lifetime.

"All of us played hockey outdoors (as kids) and I think we're all excited to have the opportunity to play before 40,000 at Fenway Park."

Growing up in Minnesota, Wheeler said he spent much of his childhood playing pond hockey.

"Those are the best games to have, out there with your buddies," he said. "That's where the love of the game stems from."

While Boston had a few inches of snow, which quickly turned to rain; Wheeler's home state had true blizzard-like conditions with many areas getting 15 or more inches of snow.

"That was a whole other challenge in itself, having to go to the pond and shovel it out to get some good ice," Wheeler added. "Those are the fun memories you have, getting 10 guys out there to shovel the pond to get ice to play a hockey game. It really shows the love you have for the game."

- Shawn Roarke


The star of the show arrives
12.10.2009 | 1:55 PM ET

The world's most famous refrigeration truck started rolling down Van Ness Street at 1:33 p.m. ET according to my Blackberry. Dan Craig  was in the passenger's seat next to driver Jimmy Fraser.
 
Before the truck got to the overflow crowd of photographers, camera crews and reporters lining the street, Craig jumped out and help guide Fraser to his parking spot on the right side of the street, mere feet away from the famous brick building that is Fenway Park.
 
It parked ever so closely to the curb, right outside an entrance way into the stadium.
 
Craig then held court in front of a huge throng of reporters and cameras while standing directly in front of the truck. He was just about giddy as he looked out and saw the media, which acted as a welcoming committee for the NHL to the city of Boston.
 
Craig, already sporting his Winter Classic beard, spoke of how today's weather in Boston -- crisp, sunny and in the 30s -- would be perfect for gameday on Jan. 1. He likened this event to the Stanley Cup, saying he felt like one of the players while standing in front of the media.
 
Soon after Craig was finished answering questions, the media made its way upstairs to the interview room. A press conference with Craig and Don Renzulli, who leads the NHL's Events and Entertainment department that will turn everything around Craig's rink into a hockey haven, is scheduled to begin shortly.
 
"I love this job," Craig said.
 
More to come later.

- Dan Rosen


Chara recalls skating on the river

12.10.2009 | 12:33 PM ET

With the Winter Classic being a central topic of conversation inside the Bruins dressing room Thursday morning, I was able to catch the tail-end of an interview captain Zdeno Chara was doing on camera for one of the news outlets here.

The topic: Skating outdoors.

The location: The Vah River in Slovakia.

"We had a whole bunch of guys playing hockey and we just got together and it was pretty much every weekend," Chara was saying. "We all knew that's where we were going to meet and that's where we were going to play. We played for three hours or so.

"It was just for fun," he continued. "It was 4-on-4 and 5-on-5 sometimes. There were no goalies, just small nets. That's the way we played. It was pretty high scoring games."

At this point I jumped in to piggy-back off of the previous interviewer and ask more questions about the Winter Classic. Even with a big game later tonight against Toronto, Chara was more than willing to talk about the upcoming game on Jan. 1 and I could even see his eyes lighting up as he discussed it.

That's one of the great things about this game. Perhaps no one enjoys it more than the players. They're out of their norm but back in their element. They love it.

"I know it's going to be really busy and I know it's going to be very special, but until you experience it you can't dream about it or imagine it," Chara told NHL.com. "I'm sure it's going to be a lot more than you would ever think it's going to be. I'm sure it's going to be really loud and being outdoors it will feel kind of weird.

"When I talked to people that already played some Winter Classics they say once you step on the ice it feels like the ice is so much bigger because there are no stands right there. It's wide open, so it feels a lot bigger than it is."

-- Dan Rosen

On the scene

12.09.2009 | 7:39 PM ET

We're here, ready for the Winter Classic rink build to officially get under way. Dan Rosen and I braved the elements in a 4-1/2 hour ride up here from the Jersey Shore that featured all aspects of the weather spectrum.

It was sunny at the Jersey Shore when I left, after a night of driving rain. Then, there was significant snowfall when I arrived to pick up Dan in a nifty Nissan Altima hybrid. Fortunately for Dan, the Altima had every luxury but an Ipod docking station. If it had, we would have been listening to the new Red Chord album (they're Mass boys, you know) on the ride up and that is not really Dan's scene.

Instead, we settled for inane conversation as we barreled up Route 84 through more snow-covered small towns and into the darkness and fog that awaited us. When we hit the Mass Pike, the sky was afire with winter lightning -- always an inspiring -- and ominous -- sight, by the way. Finally, as we pulled into Copley Square -- our home away from home for the next 48 hours -- it started to pour again.

The rain is expected to taper off overnight, but the win is expected to pick up. According to forecasts, there could be gusts of up to 50 mph on Thursday. The wind should help dry things out, but it is not ideal conditions to start building an outdoor rink in historic Fenway Park that will be the Center of the hockey universe in a mere three weeks.

But, I have no fear that Dan Craig and his crew will persevere. I have been around members of Craig's ice crew in both Edmonton (Heritage Classic) and Chicago (last year's Winter Classic), as well as when he built a rink from scratch inside the Saitama Super Arena in Japan for a season-opening two-game set between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators in what seems to be a lifetime ago.

The rink build starts tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. and we'll be on hand to document all the day's events, as well as a few updates from the Bruins' morning skate tomorrow morning in preparation for Thursday night's game against Toronto. The Maple Leafs, who are playing against the Islanders tonight, will not have a morning skate tomorrow.

We'll also be on hand to greet the refrigeration truck when it arrives at Fenway on Thursday afternoon, coimpleting the journey that Dave Lozo has so ably chronicled for the past three days.

Now, it's time to brave the elements and find some dinner soon. We'll be back in the morning. Have a good night!

- Shawn P. Roarke


Truck reaches ESPN's headquarters
12.09.2009 | 3:30 PM ET

Greetings from Bristol. As I type this, I am in the heart of ESPN's newsroom, inches away from the producers and on-air talent that work on SportsCenter. I hate to break this to the world, but the commercials are lies. I haven't seen one athlete walking around this place in his uniform. I feel cheated.

The truck was the center of attention yet again today on a cold, wet, rainy, snowy all-round bleak day. ESPN's Barry Melrose braved the elements like the hockey guy he is to shoot a segment in the parking lot with the truck and ice maestro Dan Craig. A lot of people from the NHL were on hand, including PR specialist Kerry McGovern. She saw me standing in the rain without an umbrella, and said, "Hey, do you want to use our extra umbrella?"

Before I could say yes, I realized she actually talking to one of ESPN's producers, not me. It's always nice to get a reminder of where you are in the food chain, and as I wiped the freezing rain off my forehead, I realized where I stood.

Melrose and Craig acted like fast friends, busting chops and having a lot of laughs. Meanwhile, I was doing a radio appearance (can you appear on the radio?) with NHL Live! out in the cold. I think at some point I might've challenged ESPN's Matthew Barnaby to a fight. As I sit at this borrowed desk in ESPN's offices, I am looking over my shoulder every 15 seconds to make sure Barnaby doesn't jump me.

Hockey fans might like to know this -- when SportsCenter producer John Ziomek mentioned we shot some footage with Melrose and the truck outside, Linda Cohn's eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas. She wanted the footage immediately, but alas, the segment won't be ready for tonight's SportsCenter.

And that's pretty much that. Craig and Melrose were more than accommodating, and the day was about as successful as it could be considering the weather. My next job is to figure out a way to get to the Berlin train station so I can head back to New York. My ride (TV guys Matthew Coe and Kyle Liggon) is heading to Boston, so it's either I move into the cafeteria here (which is outstanding, BTW) or stick around let Barnaby beat me down.

Since those are my options, I'll sign off now.

- Dave Lozo


Winter Classic truck in Springfield; the Internet not so much

12.08.2009 | 9:00 PM ET

Springfield. It's best known as the home of the super religious Ned Flanders and the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Well step aside, fictional characters that don't really have an affiliation with Massachusetts and shrines for really tall people. The Winter Classic truck is in town and it demands your attention.

The refrigeration machine on wheels has been careening up the East Coast the last few days. It's gone from Philadelphia to New York and now to Springfield today. It's next stop is at ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Conn., tomorrow before arriving in Boston on Thursday.

I'm not sure what ESPN has planned with the truck. I know Barry Melrose and Matthew Barnaby will be on hand, so perhaps Melrose will distract the truck with his mullet so Barnaby can beat it up.

Or maybe they'll interview NHL ice guru Dan Craig and air that on ESPN. One or the other.

Today, the truck was outside the MASSMutual Center, home of the AHL's Springfield Falcons. Kids from the Sabis International Charter School were on hand to skate and work on their games with former NHL players thanks to The Hockey Project, an organization that gives inner-city youths a chance to learn the game.

The kids were pretty great. I counted no less than 125 slip-and-falls, and just about every time a kid fell, he got up laughing. Remember that? When falling down didn't result in asking for a ride to the hospital? The smiles of those children reminded me of how bitter I've become over the years and how I can only exact joy from a situation by making fun of it. It was hard slap in the face, really. Now I'm ready to turn my sarcastic ways around.

Then I got back to the hotel.

The Internet connection at my hotel rivals that of your dial-up connection in 1996. I don't know much about the Internet, but I know that's ridiculous.

After lots of swearing at inanimate objects, it's now 9 p.m. and my hotel room smells of buffalo sauce and bitterness. I'm right back to where I was before I watched the kids take to the ice, only with more buffalo sauce in my life. So really, I think I've won today.

I'll check back in tomorrow from Bristol. Stay classy.

- Dave Lozo


Pandolfo wants to hit rewind button

12.02.2009 | 3:00 PM ET

You'd think that with his ties to the NHL and to Boston, Devils winger Jay Pandolfo would be dying to play a hockey game at Fenway Park.

Oh, he is, but not for an NHL team.

"BU and BC are playing there as well, and that's what I kind of wish for more that I was playing for BU right now," Pandolfo told NHL.com. "To be in college and playing for BU against BC at Fenway, now that would be really cool. I wish I could go back whatever it is, 13 or so years, and be part of that."

Pandolfo, who played for Boston University from 1992-96, grew up in the Boston area and is a die-hard Sawx fan. He'll definitely tune into NBC on New Years Day to watch the Bruins and Flyers, but he would trade in his Devils' jersey for his old Terriers' sweater on Jan. 8 when his alma mater takes on Boston College on Fenway's ice.

It's just too bad the Devils host Tampa Bay the same day BU plays BC or Pandolfo would probably have tried to make the trip to see that game.

"Maybe it's just because I play for New Jersey and don't think about playing for the Bruins, but at this point it would be cooler for me playing for BU at Fenway," Pandolfo said.

Pandolfo, though, does admit it seems like a dream scenario for any kid from the Boston area who grew up watching the Bruins and the Red Sox to play in the Winter Classic at Fenway.

"I'm sure now it's going to create quite a stir in the Boston area with young kids growing up watching hockey or watching baseball, wondering what the heck they're doing at Fenway on Jan. 1," he said. "It might pick hockey up again in Massachusetts."

He's been trying to envision what seeing a hockey game from the Fenway stands would look like, but he's not sure if it'll matter where you sit.

"I'm sure there will be some seats where you can't see, but just to be part of that experience would be cool," he said. "Hopefully the weather works out for them."

For the Terriers and Eagles, too.

- Dan Rosen


Ironing out the details
12.01.2009 | 3:33 PM ET

Staff members from the NHL, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Red Sox met here at Fenway Park today for a "tie-down" meeting to discuss all facets of operating, presenting and playing the 2010 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic. Red Sox President/CEO Larry Lucchino stopped by to thank the NHL for bringing the game to Fenway and talked about Boston's status as "a great hockey town."

"We are determined to live up to that history," said Lucchino to a group of more than 100. "We want to honor the heritage of Bobby Orr and Johnny Bucyk and Phil Esposito and all the great Bruins."

Lucchino said he looks to share Fenway Park and Boston "not just with the nation, but really the entire world."

During a long walk around the park before the meeting, one thing is clear: There are more than a dozen unique viewpoints, basically nooks and crannies, from which to watch the 2010 Classic. The best seats, of course, will be elevated. There are about eight distinct higher perches for fans who will be lucky enough to attend the sold-out game, including some inviting standing spaces. NHL.com will provide lots more detail about those vantages in the weeks ahead and on game day.

- Bob Condor


31 days and counting

12.01.2009 | 8:00 AM ET

We are now exactly one month out from the 2010 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic taking place at Boston's historic Fenway Park. Thirty-one days from today, the host Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers will hook up in the ultimate game of outdoor hockey, evoking memories of childhoods spent on backyard rinks and frozen ponds playing shinny for hours on end.

To celebrate, NHL.com is launching the Boston Baked Blog, the hub for all things related to the Winter Classic. The BBB will be your one-stop shopping for Winter Classic info, complementing our unparalleled editorial coverage, which can be found here.

So please join us as here frequently at the Boston Baked Blog as we count down the days until history is made at Fenway Park on New Year's Day (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC).

- Shawn P. Roarke