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Mullen: 'I want it to snow during the game'

Wednesday, 12.30.2009 / 11:24 AM / 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic - Flyers v. Bruins

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

"When the Flyers came into the League, they were a tough team and the Bruins were always known as a tough team. So when the two tough teams clashed, it always was interesting. That's been the biggest positive out of the rivalry. You just never know when something was going to break out." -- Joey Mullen

Joey Mullen has two wishes for New Year's Day.
 
First, he wants to see his Flyers celebrate a win over the Bruins in the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS). And Mullen, a Flyers' assistant coach, has one other wish.

"I want it to snow during the game," Mullen told NHL.com.

Ah, music to the ears of NHL Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig -- the man behind the ice at Boston's famed Fenway Park this week.

"It's a once in a lifetime chance and I'm looking forward to it," Mullen said. "I really do hope we get some snow. It looked great on television when Pittsburgh beat Buffalo a few years ago (at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y.), so I'd like to see it again behind the bench."

While Mullen won't play in the game, being on the Flyers' bench will certainly rekindle memories of his younger days playing in frigid temperatures within New York City's notorious Hell's Kitchen.

"It was a lot of fun," Mullen said. "There was a schoolyard right across the street from our house and we'd put on our roller skates or baseball gloves or whatever and spend hours there. I mean, from 3 o'clock after school to midnight sometimes, we'd be in that schoolyard playing something. There were so many kids in the area that we always had a game somewhere along the line -- that was our life. And even though there was a lot going on around us, we didn't pay much attention to all that. Sports did that for us."

Mullen played 17 NHL seasons with the St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames, Pittsburgh Penguins and Bruins (1979-80, 1981-82 through 1996-97), scoring 502 goals and 1,063 points in 1,062 regular-season games. He owns the second highest career goal total among U.S.-born players and was a member of three Stanley Cup teams -- Calgary in 1989 and Pittsburgh in 1991 and '92. Only two years after his induction into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998, Mullen was enshrined into the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

In addition to playing outdoors, Mullen also knows a little something about this Flyers-Bruins rivalry that will take center stage Friday. Not only did he spend one season with the Bruins, but he also went to school at nearby Boston College.

"You saw the game (against Philadelphia) on the schedule and you'd just get up for it -- there was no way to avoid it," Mullen said. "You would try to play the same game you always played, but there was always a little extra.

"When the Flyers came into the League, they were a tough team and the Bruins were always known as a tough team. So when the two tough teams clashed, it always was interesting. That's been the biggest positive out of the rivalry. You just never know when something was going to break out. I think people expect it and even though the game has changed a lot (since the early '70s) you can still have hard-hitting games and that's a staple of the Flyers and Bruins. You just probably won't see as many fights any more."

A three-time NHL All-Star, Mullen twice won the Lady Byng Trophy (1987, '89). His specialty as an assistant under then-coach John Stevens and now Peter Laviolette has been the power play.

"There's so much young, good talent in the League; even those players playing on the fourth line," Mullen said. "You've got guys who can skate and pass the puck and really handle the puck a lot better than in the past. It really makes the game fun to watch and they don't miss a beat playing in these outdoor games either."

Mullen's teachings are invaluable, particularly to Flyers rookie forward James van Riemsdyk.

"He's been great, he's helped me out personally on the ice; providing shooting tips," van Riemsdyk said. "I remember playing at UNH and seeing his name and jersey in the rafters when we played at Boston College (where Mullen played four seasons in the late '70s). I asked about his college days a little bit when he won the Beanpot. It's kind of cool to see a guy you've heard so much about and meet him and find out he's even better than you thought. He's a great help to me and a lot of the other guys on the team."

"He's a coach who's played the game and has been great for our power-play and shooting," captain Mike Richards said. "It's really good for me to just hear things from someone who's been there and has had success doing it."

During his last two years at Boston College, Mullen was placed on the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference First All-Star Team and the NCAA East First All-America Team.

After his senior season in 1978-79, Mullen represented the United States at the 1979 World Championships. He was named an assistant coach of the Flyers in June 2007 after serving as an assistant with the team's then-American Hockey League affiliate in Philadelphia in 2006-07.

"My role is helping with the power-play and helping forwards find those areas (to score goals)," Mullen said. "Hopefully, it helps them score a little more and be in position more."

"Just the amount of experience he's brought and to have him queuing up the power-play with all that experience is great," Laviolette said. "He certainly sends the right message. It's a tremendous advantage to someone like me, as a coach, to have someone like that on your staff."

Following the coaching change, Mullen can sense the players just now beginning to grasp Laviolette's approach.

"I don't think it's been anything drastic and when Peter tried to implement his system, he did it in little bits and pieces," Mullen said. "You can't give it to them all at once -- it's just too much information. You have to ease into it with a little bit here and a little there."

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com