"I never imagined I'd be standing out here no, never. This is kind of surreal. You look around and you're in a baseball park, Fenway Park! Then you look down and you're on ice. Really unique, that's for sure." -- Bobby Orr
Nicky and his Somerville, Mass. youth hockey teammates joined Bobby Orr, Milt Schmidt, Cam Neely, Ray Bourque, Terry O'Reilly and numerous Bruins alumni for the "First Skate At Fenway" Friday morning, one of the events leading up to the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day. For those on the ice with Orr, it was any hockey fan's version of Heaven. Orr, too, was having a ball skating around with the kids and his fellow Bruins alumni.
"They don't know who we are," Orr jokingly said of the kids skating with him. "The parents do I'm sure though, but it's great to see them out there with us. It's really special for them and us. That's what it's all about.
"Pretty good hockey team out here, not bad," Orr said of his Bruins' alumni. "Little slow but we still got it. Being with all these guys is always nice because we don't see each other enough and to do it here was amazing."
Growing up and skating on Georgian Bay in Perry Sound, Ontario, Orr never imagined he would be skating outdoors in Fenway Park.
"I never imagined I'd be standing out here no, never," Orr said. "This is kind of surreal. You look around and you're in a baseball park, Fenway Park! Then you look down and you're on ice. Really unique, that's for sure."
Orr has really been impressed with the job the NHL has done with it's outdoor games, from the Heritage Classic between Edmonton and Montreal in 2003 to the last two Bridgestone NHL Winter Classics. He believes this one at Fenway Park will be the best yet.
"This is really great, New Year's Day is going to be great," Orr said. "Being outside, the fans, the atmosphere, the NHL has something special here. They've done a great job with this event and should be proud."
Recently there has been discussion of doing a doubleheader of outdoor games or having more than one outdoor game, but Orr thinks the league should leave things as they are.
"I'm not sure they need to do more than once a year," he said. "I think it's a perfect time. You got the weather just right and it's just a great thing for the League."
But regardless of what happens in the future, Orr, his fellow Bruins alumni and kids like Nicky Merkel will never forget the "First Skate At Fenway".
"This is one of those days you'll always remember and I'm glad I made it," he said. "This is something special."