"I was kind of nervous when [the 2010 Winter Classic] started. I was looking around, kind of wondering what was going on. Now I know more what to expect, so I can enjoy it more. Before the game, just relax -- just enjoy it." - Claude Giroux
Having already experienced playing one NHL game outside, members of the Philadelphia Flyers can't wait to play outdoors again.
When the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic is played on Jan. 2, 2012 at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, the Flyers will host the League's mid-winter showcase.
Not that there weren't a healthy helping of Flyers fans in attendance at Boston's Fenway Park for the 2010 Classic.
"We only received about 5,000 tickets and there had to be 12,000, 15,000 Flyers fans," Flyers President Peter Luukko told NHL.com. "I don't know where they got them, but it was great."
There will be more Flyers fans flocking to the ballpark that resides a few hundred yards from where their hockey favorites generally skate, which should create a more favorable atmosphere.
"Philly fans are really passionate for their teams," forward James van Riemsdyk
told NHL.com. "They really like to do it right, so I know they're going to be going nuts."
Van Riemsdyk, who was a rookie when the Flyers faced the Bruins two years ago, said this year he'll be able to appreciate the scope of the game more.
"The second time around I find, no matter what you do, you're definitely taking it in a little bit more, you know how special it is to get to play in a game like this," he said. "To have it in the city of Philadelphia will make it that much better. The fans will be going nuts. It'll be a great atmosphere before the game, seeing all the fans tailgating and getting ready for the game. Should be exciting."
Teammate Claude Giroux
said knowing what to expect this year will make the experience that much more enjoyable for him.
"I was kind of nervous when it started," he told NHL.com about the game in Fenway. "I was looking around, kind of wondering what was going on. Now I know more what to expect, so I can enjoy it more. Before the game, just relax -- just enjoy it."
Giroux said what stood out to him about his first outdoor experience was the noise -- actually, the lack of it.
"When you're on the ice you don't hear the crowd," he said. "Usually the crowd is over you, yelling, but the crowd was so far away and it was so open, you really couldn't hear the crowd. It was like you were on an outdoor rink, nobody watching. It was pretty cool."
Beyond the actual game, most players say their favorite moment is from the family skate the day before the game.
"The practice day was just amazing," Danny Briere
told NHL.com. "That's what I'm going to remember the most, having the chance to be on the ice with my kids, my parents, a couple of my friends that came down. The day was just perfect with the snow coming down. It was magical."
Added van Riemsdyk: "The family skate the day before the game, I had my brothers up there, my family up there, that whole deal. That was pretty cool, to take it all in with them and share it with them."
In fact, van Riemsdyk has the chance to be part of an outdoor game first, of sorts. His younger brother, Trevor, will be a freshman this season at the University of New Hampshire, which will play its own outdoor game Jan. 7 against the University of Maine at Fenway Park.
"We might be the first brother combination in two different outdoor games," van Riemsdyk said. "My dad is going to go to ours, and a week later they get to play, too. It's going to be pretty cool."
Cool is certainly one word to describe the Flyers' second chance to be part of the Winter Classic.
"I'm even more excited than I was with Boston because I had a little taste of it," Giroux said. "It was one of my favorite moments in my life. All my friends were there. Playing at Fenway Park was unbelievable. Now you get to play again, against the Rangers, at the Phillies' ballpark. It doesn't get better than this. I think we're pretty lucky to have that."