To play the second (hockey) game in Fenway Park, this is awesome. You know, I'm not a hockey player, but to be able to skate with these gentlemen is a great honor. - Kiefer Sutherland
Saturday afternoon, Bruins alumni from the 1960s to today -- and other celebrities -- took the ice for the AT&T Legends Game, a rollicking celebration of the team's history played out before 33,166 fans, who braved a New England snowstorm for the experience.
Snow fell softly, but steadily, throughout the game, providing unbelievable visuals. Game-time temperature was 29 degrees Fahrenheit.
"That was so much fun that you didn't want to come off the ice," a tired, but smiling, Lyndon Byers said after his Team Black took a 9-5 decision from Team Gold before the largest crowd to attend an athletic event for charity in the history of Boston.
The hearty fans were treated to a show that was as good -- in a different way -- as the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic that preceded it here at Fenway Park by 24 hours.
Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine, who finished with 2 goals and 4 assists for Team Black, couldn't believe how much fun everyone had.
"Pretty cool," LaFontaine said. "It's the pure outdoor part of this game. The spectacle, the event, it's unreal. You could see the guys and they couldn't stop smiling. Tim Robbins, he hasn't smiled like that since he played Andy Dufresne in 'Shawshank Redemption,' which is my favorite movie. Everyone was smiling -- Denis Leary, Kiefer Sutherland and even Cam Neely and all those guys."
For Sutherland, the star of the hit TV series, "24," the opportunity to travel to Boston and play hockey at one of the country's most famous ballparks was a no-brainer.
"To play the second (hockey) game in Fenway Park, this is awesome," said Sutherland, who played defense for Team Black. "You know, I'm not a hockey player, but to be able to skate with these gentlemen is a great honor."
The 32 players, ranging in talent level from Hall of Famers to Rec-league regulars, were probably more excited to be on the Fenway ice than the crowd.
Everybody had smiles on their faces from start to finish and, right now, the guys are still walking around talking about how amazing it was," said Claude Julien, the current Boston coach, who played defense for Team Gold. "To play at Fenway Park, it doesn't matter whether you are a celebrity, famous or a Hall of Famer; this is pretty special."
The game raised funds for several worthy charities, including Hockey Fights Cancer and the Bruins Foundation.
"There's going to be a lot of money raised to help a lot of people," said Neely, the former Bruins star who is now the team's vice president.
Neely last played competitive hockey in 1996, but he looked like he hadn't missed a beat. He scored two goals and added three assists while riding shotgun for LaFontaine.
After the game, LaFontaine could only shake his head about the instant chemistry the two players formed and rue what could have been had they combined when both were at their primes.
"Cam Neely and Alexander Mogilny on my wings? I think I could have had some fun," LaFontaine laughed.
Mogilny was Lafontaine's high-scoring winger during Lafontaine's glory days in Buffalo.
The second Neely goal was a rebound shot over a prone Cleon Daskalakis, a virtual carbon copy of more than half the 395 goals he scored in his legendary career.
"He really defined the power forward role and that play there was a reminder," LaFontaine said.
As the PA announcer said, "Goal scored by No. 8 Cam Neely," Fenway Park erupted with the same throaty roar that used to shake the old Boston Garden to its foundation during Neely's reign as Boston's most popular hockey player.
Celebrities like Sutherland, Dropkick Murphys front-man Ken Casey and Leary were excited to rub elbows with the famous retired players. The players, meanwhile, were champing at the bit to get the chance to play with players from different eras.
Hall of Famer Brian Leetch, a New England boy that made his career with the New York Rangers, was disappointed that Bruin great Ray Bourque was not playing, but couldn't wait to see who he was paired with on the blue line.
"I'm looking forward to getting out there," Leetch said before the game. "I was a little jealous when I saw Bobby Orr out there (at start of the Winter Classic festivities) and I was hoping we could get him out there but to be out there with Cam Neely and Rick Middleton and see Johnny Bucyk, Kiefer Sutherland and Tim Robbins, it's going to be a lot of fun."
Leetch ended up paired with another famous Ranger, Brad Park, who also played a significant past of his career with the Boston Bruins.
But, Saturday wasn't just about hockey. It was a celebration of Boston's passion for its hockey team and its sporting culture.
Casey, the rocker, got a huge cheer for instigating a fight with Byers, a former Bruins heavyweight, at center ice in the first half. Byers, as tough a customer as there was in his playing days, was given a five-minute penalty for turtling in the altercation.
Casey finished with a Gordie Howe hat trick, getting a goal an assist and a fight in the same game just 24 hours after his band kicked off the Winter Classic party by opening Friday's Winter Classic festivities at Fenway by playing "Shipping Up To Boston" live from a stage on home plate at Fenway Park.
Robbins also got a huge ovation when, during a break-in-play interview, when he disparaged the New York Yankees.
"Robbins got 'em going with that one, didn't he?" LaFontaine asked, laughing.
It didn't take much Saturday to get the crowd going at Fenway, or keep them going. After all, they intrinsically knew that this was a going-away party that wouldn't soon be forgotten in this city.Author: Shawn P. Roarke | NHL.com Managing Editor