Boston, MA -- This morning, Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien was asked if he had the assignment to shadow B's Hockey Hall of Famer Cam Neely during Saturday's much-anticipated Legends Classic game.
With a laugh, Julien said, "I don't think so. Hopefully he doesn't come near me."
With all due respect to the B's hard-hitting legend, hopefully the Boston VP is the last thing Coach Julien will worry about this week.
And although Coach continues to be accomodating with all the questions about the Winter Classic, this season, many of his answers about the big game have begun with the phrase, "We focus on one game at a time."
However, over the last few seasons, when the previous two Winter Classic has come around, BostonBruins.com asked the the B's bench boss about his experience coaching outdoors -- in the first of the NHL's three big outdoor games -- while coaching the Montreal Canadiens.
"I did the Heritage Game, Montreal vs. Edmonton," said Coach Julien in 2008 of the NHL's initial forray outdoors in 2003. "It was pretty cold out there in Edmonton.
"But, I actually took layers off," he said. "Behind the bench they had those big (football style) heaters...so where do you think I stood?
"But at one point I thought my pants were going to catch on fire and I had to slide over."
Julien said that in Edmonton there were issues with the extreme cold.
"The guys on the ice, they would go out there for 20-25 seconds," explained Julien. "They couldn't breathe because it was so cold.
"So, it was a game where I joked that I didn't have to worry about the long shifts."
Clearly, Julien wasn't joking about the issues confronting a hockey club outdoors, but the B's head coach he has always maintained that just being there is (usually) a once in a lifetime experience and that the Winter Classic is important for hockey.
"Our guys all enjoyed (it)," he said. "It's pretty unique.
"And it was a great experience and I really enjoyed it and the whole hoopla.
"I thought it was great for the game and, like in Buffalo, it really created an awareness...and that is great," he said.
And asked about the possibility of the game being in Boston, as remote as it seemed at the time, and Julien seemed excited.
"If it's not as cold (as Edmonton) it's a lot of fun even for the players," he said. "Remember Theodore? He put his touque on."
The weather seems to indicate that it won't be as cold this week, but one wonders what the lasting impression of Winter Classic 2009 will be.
Will it be the play of the two teams in the shadow of the Green Monster? Will it be a special piece of gear worn by one of the players?
Only time will tell, but until then Coach Julien is focusing on the here and nowp; on his practices and his final game of 2009 against the Atlanta Thrashers.
"We just came back from a road trip," said Julien. "To be honest I haven’t covered every angle [of the Winter Classic].
"But I’m sure by the time midnight strikes tonight we will have received more information [about the weather, etc].
"Right now our plan is to go [to Fenway] tomorrow and...If it doesn’t work out then there is no doubt we will have a backup plan. "
Julien did admit that he didn't want everyone expecting a tactical masterpiece as the Bruins hit the Fenway ice for the first time on Thursday.
"Well, having been through this before the biggest thing you want to do as a team tomorrow is get used to the environment with the ice and everything else," said Julien, who coached in the Commonwealth Classic while with the Canadiens. "It won’t be so much about what you need to practice [as much as getting] used to the boards, get used to the ice.
"There is a difference, a big difference with playing outside.
"We don’t know what the weather is going to be like either, so I don’t think you should expect us working so much on systems and tactics. Just more on getting through a good practice and having a good feel of what we are going to be up against the next day," he said.