FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron has won a Stanley Cup championship, two Olympic gold medals with Canada and three Selke Trophies.
Just when it seemed as if the Bruins alternate captain had done it all, he did something for the first time Wednesday. He got to experience the Bruins' family skate as a father.
Bergeron, his teammates and lots of friends and family took an hour to enjoy the ice at Gillette Stadium two days prior to the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. In October, Bergeron became a dad for the first time when his wife, Stephanie, gave birth to a son, Zack. Along with grandma and mom, Zack joined his father on a frigid day at the home of the New England Patriots.
"The little baby made it. He was sleeping the whole time. So he really enjoyed his first skate," Bergeron said. "[It means] a lot. We had a family skate at Fenway [Park] and it was fun, but it's definitely even more special having a kid and having a chance to share that with him."
The family skate is a perk of being selected to participate in the Winter Classic. Four months of the seriousness of training camp and the regular season are in the rearview, and there's time before attention has to be shifted to the big New Year's Day showdown against the Montreal Canadiens. Skating with family and friends is a chance to relax, have fun and even hold a mini family reunion.
Bruins rookie and Longmeadow, Mass., native Frank Vatrano was thrilled his brother, Sammy, flew from Singapore to be part of the festivities.
"When I was called up [from the American Hockey League] he booked his tickets to come home," Frank Vatrano said. "I didn't know if I was going to be playing in the game or not. But for him to book the tickets and to come home, he's really happy for me and for him to be here to enjoy this with me and my family. I couldn't have wished for anything better than for him to be here."
Forward Max Talbot has played in two Winter Classic games he practiced prior to a third. So he's the sage when it comes to all the events leading up to the game. He recommended his teammates mix in a little business with pleasure during the skate and then do more homework during practice here Thursday.
"We haven't talked too much about it until today, because we had a lot of hockey games to play," Talbot said. "But this morning I was telling the guys that it was important to take today and tomorrow really as a preparation, because you can't just get in the game without practice.
"It's such a different atmosphere. The wind, the weather, the lighting. So you've got to find your bearings and you've got to take these two days, even the family skate today, as an important day to kind of get in the groove of everything."
Bergeron remembers the adjustment it took going from playing at TD Garden to Fenway Park for the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
"Just the depth factor is an adjustment on its own," he said. "It's something I noticed at Fenway. I never thought it was going to be something that we would have had to adjust to, and it was the case. So it's going to be the same thing and hopefully [Thursday] it can help us having that practice to get used to that. And then it might take us a few minutes in the game, but then it all goes back to keeping things simple early, and then go out there and play your game."
Among Bergeron's major accomplishments, the 2010 Winter Classic ranks high. The Bruins came from behind by scoring a late goal to tie it in the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers. Then Bergeron set up linemate Marco Sturm's game-winning goal in overtime and the celebration on Yawkey Way ensued.
"It's definitely up there," Bergeron said of that iconic moment. "More the celebration afterward and the fireworks and the crowd, and that's memories that you'll never forget. And it was a lot of fun. I mean, it's a regular-season game, but it feels like a playoff game and you want to win it. But it's great."
From the family skate through the practice to the game against the Canadiens, Bergeron and his teammates are making creating more ever-lasting memories from this Winter Classic.