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Carnival atmosphere greets fans at Spectator Plaza

By John McGourty - NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Dave Marro of Philadelphia was standing in the middle of Spectator Plaza, across the street from Fenway Park, with his wife, Kelly, and best friend, Matt Conrad of Reading, Pa., taking in all the excitement in the hours before the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins. The three were decked out in their Winter Classic finest.

It was a carnival-like atmosphere as men and women on stilts, dressed in Bruins and Flyers Winter Classic uniforms posed with fans for pictures, representatives of Winter Classic sponsors handed out gifts, fans took shots at a live goalie in the Bridgestone Tire tent or got their picture taken for their hockey card at the Upper Deck tent. Former Bruins star Derek Sanderson signed autographs in the Pepsi tent and 95.5 Sports Hub, the Bruins' flagship radio station, kept the buzz going with commentary and interviews from their stage.

Clam chowder headed the menu in the food tent.

Marro was wearing a circa-1980s Flyers sweater bearing the No. 20, letter C, name Poulin.

"Hey, you should buy a Bruins sweater, cut it and the Flyers sweater in half and stitch them together. Poulin played for Boston too, you know," Marro was told.

Marro wasn't having it.

"No, no way, not going to do it," he interrupted. "I would never, ever desecrate this jersey in that manner. I had this jersey specially made about seven years ago to replace an original Flyers jersey that doesn't fit me anymore."

"You know, I still think you could find a way to honor Poulin's tenure here in Boston," Marro was teased. Poulin was one of the smartest players of his era, a strong center who was one of the best in the faceoff circle. After retiring, he became a successful coach at Notre Dame.

Poulin was one of the leaders of the 1985 and 1987 Flyers who were defeated by the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Final. He played for the Bruins when they were defeated by the Oilers in the 1990 Stanley Cup Final. Hockey's tough. There haven't been many better players than Poulin, who played in three Stanley Cup Finals in five years and came away empty-handed.

"He was my favorite player," Marro said. "My family has been long-time Flyers' season-ticket holders. We won the season-ticket holders' lottery to get these seats. As soon as I heard the Flyers would play in the Winter Classic in Boston, I said, 'gotta be there.'"

"We just said we don't care how much it costs, we're going," Kelly Marro said.

Conrad and Dave Marro met when they played for the West Chester University hockey team.

"Well, we got to sit on the bench," Conrad joked.

"And, we got to warm up with the team," Marro concurred.

All three are excited by the Flyers' recent turnaround. They come into the Winter Classic off four-straight victories, including a 6-0 pasting of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden Wednesday.

"It's been good," Marro said. "They started slowly, learning a new system and learning to be disciplined but they looked really good in the Rangers' game. They destroyed them."

John Roberts of Braintree, Mass., was decked out, head-to-foot, in Bruins' Winter Classic gear. He was with his sister, Lindsey, and friends Dennis and Jay MacMullin, brothers from Ashland, Mass. They stopped at Spectator Plaze before heading into the park and their seats in right field.

"The Winter Classic Bruins hoodie was a Christmas present from my mom and dad," John Roberts said. "I put it on my Christmas list. The hat I got a couple of weeks earlier, along with the lanyard that holds my ticket."

Roberts said the Bruins Winter Classic logo, with the wavy B in the Hub, is indeed a classic.

"I saw the show about how they made the logo," Roberts said. "The B is from the 1924 uniform and the rest is a composite of past Bruins' uniforms. It came out great. This game is a once-in-a-lifetime event, something we'll always remember. It's a special event and I wanted a special jersey for it."

Hockey players Christie Urban, of Wilmington, Del., and Mike Venit, from Ridley Park, Pa., have feet in both camps. They met while playing hockey at Aston Ice Works in the Philadelphia suburbs, got engaged and moved to Natick, Mass., two years ago, after graduating from college.

Christie played defense at the University of New Hampshire and Mike was a left wing at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. Now, they both work in Boston.

"Being here was a no-brainer," Christie said. "We were prepared to postpone the wedding if the tickets cost a lot. It's a dream come true for us to have the Flyers play in the Winter Classic in Boston."

"We collect everything we can in Philadelphia sports memorabilia and Christie made our hats. Now, we're looking for a Flyers' blanket and seat cushions."