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Marchand, Bruins soak in Winter Classic experience at Notre Dame

Forward makes snow angel to cap memorable day, win against Blackhawks

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The game was over. The daylight was dimming over the Golden Dome. And as if he were a kid on a pond who'd been called in for dinner, Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand dropped his stick and lay on his back.

On top of one of the Winter Classic logos at Notre Dame Stadium, he made a snow angel.

"Towards the end of the game, you realize it's coming to an end," he said, "and you just kind of want to stay out there and enjoy it."

 

[WATCH: All Bruins vs. Blackhawks highlights | RELATED: Complete Winter Classic coverage]

 

The 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic was everything it was supposed to be: a celebration of hockey's outdoor roots, a blend of NHL and Notre Dame football traditions, a unique spectacle of memorable moments.

Outlined against a cold, gray January sky -- to echo the famous opening line of Grantland Rice's column on the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame in 1924 -- the Bruins defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 on Tuesday before a sellout crowd of 76,126.

The only larger crowd in NHL history was 105,491 at the 2014 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium, where the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout.

Video: BOS@CHI: Marchand seals win with empty-netter

People soaked up the scene from the field to the stands, from the fans to the legends. Bruins great Ray Bourque took a video on the field during the pregame ceremony. During the first period, he stood outside on a platform next to the press box and had someone take his picture. The video and photos were personal keepsakes.

"It's like, 'Wow,' " he said. "Something nice to have."

The NHL has staged 26 stadium games and 11 Winter Classics. The Blackhawks have played in six outdoor games, the Bruins three. But this was different, because this was Notre Dame.

The Blackhawks recreated the walk the Fighting Irish make on game day. Even though it was 10 a.m. ET on New Year's Day and face-off wasn't until 1:25 p.m., hundreds of fans were waiting for them on the Hesburgh Library Mall. Led by the Pipes and Drums of the Chicago Police Department, the players marched to the stadium.

Video: Players and fans arrive at the 2019 Winter Classic

The Bruins arrived dressed like characters from "Peaky Blinders," a Netflix show about 1920s gangsters in Birmingham, England. If you didn't know, you'd have thought they were trying to look old-school Irish, with their vests and their plaids and their scally caps.

"It's the Winter Classic," defenseman Matt Grzelcyk said. "So you've got to rise to the occasion, I guess, and have fun with it."

The pregame ceremony was an experience.

Legends from both teams were introduced: Bourque, Johnny Bucyk and Cam Neely from Boston; Tony Esposito, Denis Savard and Bobby Hull from Chicago. Jill Mikita, wife of the late Stan Mikita, represented her husband.

Video: BOS@CHI: Legends introduced at 2019 Winter Classic

Music from the movie "Rudy" played as the players, in uniforms inspired by the 1930s, walked out of the Knute Rockne Gate, turned with Touchdown Jesus in the background and headed down the tunnel underneath the Fighting Irish football national title banners.

Led by Notre Dame's Leprechaun mascot, the players took the field to the "Notre Dame Victory March," played by the South Bend Symphony Orchestra.

"I think one of the coolest things was walking down the hallway and kind of getting to where it opens up and you get to see the whole crowd and the rink," Marchand said. "You can't see any faces. There's just so many."

Finally, the anthem. Jim Cornelison sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the fans stood and cheered, like they do at United Center. Only this time the orchestra played instead of the organ, and the crowd was 3 1/2 times larger, and it was outdoors at Notre Dame, and four A-10 Thunderbolt II planes flew over as an exclamation point.

"The national anthem was one of the coolest things I've ever been a part of," Bruins defenseman Torey Krug said. "It's always my favorite rink to go to, United Center, to be a part of that national anthem. And then they brought it to this stage in this stadium. It was a really special moment with that.

"And then the flyover right after, that's goosebump type of stuff."

Video: BOS@CHI: Cornelison performs anthem at Winter Classic

Conditions were ideal: 35.5 degrees Fahrenheit at face-off and overcast. Not too cold. No sun glare. There were so many Boston fans that there were dueling chants, deep "Tuuuk!" sounds when goaltender Tuukka Rask made big stops and strong roars when the Bruins scored.

Rask was excellent, making 36 saves. Patrice Bergeron showed why he is one of the best two-way centers in the game. The sequence of the afternoon came in the second period, when Bergeron broke up a shorthanded breakaway and scored on the power play. Instead of falling behind 3-1, the Bruins tied the game 2-2.

Center Sean Kuraly put the Bruins ahead 3-2 at 10:20 of the third period. Marchand ended it by scoring into an empty net with 33 seconds left, not that he wanted it to end.

"You try to take in every minute of the whole thing," he said, "and you hope you can remember it all."

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