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Barberio's Unexpected First NHL Outdoor Experience

Avalanche defenseman played in the 2016 Winter Classic with Montreal

by Kate Reed /

Mark Barberio was playing with the American Hockey League's St. John's Ice Caps during the 2015-16 campaign when he was called up to play with the Montreal Canadiens.

Unlike other NHL call-ups, however, this one led Barberio to a spot in the 2016 Winter Classic against the Boston Bruins at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

The Montreal native joined the Canadiens after Christmas and skated in a couple of games prior to heading outdoors. It marked the first few games that Barberio played with Montreal after he signed with his hometown team as a free agent the previous July.

"I got called up that week and I played two games, we had a game in Tampa and then a game in Florida," Barberio recalled. "I wasn't sure if I would play the third game on the road trip, which was the Winter Classic. I found out like the morning of or the day before at practice [that I was going to play].

"It was just cool because at the time, I'd started that season in the AHL and I was supposed to be in Utica, New York, for that day, but instead I was playing at Gillette Stadium in front of like, whatever amount of fans they hold. It was just really cool. I never thought I'd get a chance to experience an outdoor game like that, but it was just an amazing experience."

Not only did the blueliner appear in the Winter Classic immediately after his call-up, he recorded an assist and a plus-3 rating to help lead Montreal to a 5-1 victory over the Bruins in front of 67,246 fans in attendance. 

"It was cool," said Barberio of getting on the scoresheet. "I think the biggest thing is we just wanted to win it. Those games are so special, but it's also that much more special when you actually win the game. Being able to get an assist and get on the scoresheet I think just makes it a bit more memorable, but what I'll remember is just that feeling of getting off the ice with a victory.

"Especially in that type of game where it's Montreal-Boston, the rivalry is so… you know, those two teams hate each other. So, to win it in Gillette Stadium in New England it was just really special."

As for Barberio's favorite memory of the Winter Classic? Getting the win with the team he grew up watching stuck out to him more than anything else.

"I just think that it's the fact that we won, and the way that we won," said Barberio. "We went into their stadium and just took over the game and took over the stadium for three hours, and that's the biggest thing, the fact that we won that game. That's what I'll remember most."  

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