Boston, MA --
|Bourque and Neely
Legendary Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque is just one of the B’s alumni who will be the first to skate on the Winter Classic ice at Fenway Park on December 18.
“Well it’s an incredible honor,” said Bourque about Boston being the host of this year’s Winter Classic. “It’s not only a game… but it’s been a really incredible popular success wherever it’s gone and just the buzz that it creates for hockey, you know, it’s like a All Star game in some ways with everything that goes around it and the excitement of the fans.
“Last year Wrigley Field, this year Fenway Park, and just having it there in that environment is going to make for a really fun day I would think.”
Bourque and many other Legends, including Bobby Orr, Cam Neely and Terry O’Reilly will have the honor of hitting the ice first on Friday by taking the first skate with 15 local youth hockey players.
The legends will sport their old playing numbers, including Bourque who will once again don his retired sweater number 77.
Assisting in the transition from the TD Garden to Fenway Park will be a caravan of trolleys, the Bruins Hummer and a Zamboni, which is scheduled to arrive at the park at 9:30 a.m.
Thinking back to his NHL days, Bourque said, “I would have loved to play at Fenway [on] New Year’s Day. It would have been an exciting, incredible exciting game and one that I would have loved to have played in.
“So yeah I’m a little jealous that I won’t have a chance to play in that game,” said the Hockey Hall of Famer, “but the players are really going to enjoy it.
“It should be a lot of fun for them.”
The weather in Boston is always unpredictable, but having grown up in Montreal and lived in New England for most of his adult life, the winter weather is something very familiar to Bourque.
“I think what alters things is the conditions outdoors, if there is any rain or snow… I think that’s more of an element that might cause some trouble than just having a nice day,” said Bourque. “And if it’s a nice day, then the ice should be fine.”
Although Bourque has never played a professional outdoor game, he spent much of his winters’ outdoors with friends and understands the allure of a return to the game’s roots.
“I played a lot of outdoor games and played a lot outdoors as a kid. Any kid that did that will tell you that it’s the most fun they’ve ever had,” he said. “After school meeting up with their friends and skating until it got dark and you were told to go home.
“[That’s how] lot of the Canadian kids that grew up, especially [because] I was in Montreal, it was so cold we had ice out doors for two or three months [out of the year] so it was kind of neat,” Bourque continued. “I actually started outdoors when I started to play, and then there were a couple arenas built that you start skating indoors.
“It’s kind of neat,” said Bourque about the transition.
The ice on the day of the Winter Classic will be as close to the ice found in indoor arenas as possible, but Bourque remembers not always being so lucky.
“When you’re a kid you’re hoping that the ice had just been watered and it’s ready to go on and it’s fresh ice,” said Bourque. “Those were the best conditions and you hoped you didn’t have to go to the park knowing you had to shovel.
“If it was snowing and you had to stop the game and shovel for a while, that wasn’t much fun…but it was all part of the elements [and] playing outdoors.”