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Bruins, Canadiens alumni to face off at Winter Classic

by Shawn Roarke

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The current rivalry between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens will not be the only one celebrated at the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.


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The League announced Wednesday there will be an alumni game played at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 31, pitting legends against each other one more time.

For many who have been involved in the competition between the Bruins and Canadiens over the past nine decades, the mere sight of the other's logo rekindles a rivalry that never goes fully dormant.

Yvan Cournoyer, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and a former Canadiens captain, said the rivalry defined a huge part of who he was as a hockey player.

He entered the NHL during the 1963-64 season, when he was 19 years old, and his second game was at Boston Garden. Asked about the reception from Bruins fans, he shook his head and laughed as he stood on the playing surface at Gillette Stadium.

"We won the game, so …," Cournoyer said, suggesting that he and his Canadiens had the last laugh. "So many memories against the Bruins. I started with six teams [in the League]. That was a lot of action with six teams. I almost say we grew up together, the Boston Bruins and me with the Montreal Canadiens."

Cournoyer is 71 years old, and almost 50 years have passed since he first took the ice against Montreal's most bitter rival, but he is ready to pick up the torch again in service of the Canadiens.

No, Cournoyer will not strap on his skates and dazzle fans and opponents with his blazing speed, a skill that earned him the nickname "Road Runner." Those days, sadly, have passed him by. He said he has had multiple back surgeries and procedures done on a knee and a shoulder, so playing in the game is out of the question.

Instead, he said he will help coach the team of Canadiens alumni on New Year's Eve. He joked that he is already on the recruiting trail, making sure his team is stocked with the best players possible.

On the other side, Bruins president Cam Neely said the lure of playing against the Canadiens may pull him back onto the ice for the first time since he played in the alumni game for the 2010 NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park. On Jan. 2, 2010, Neely and other Bruins alumni split into two teams and played during a heavy snowfall.

As Neely took his skates off that day, he thought it was likely to be the last time he did so after playing in a public exhibition. Now, five years later, the mixture of the setting at Gillette Stadium and the presence of the rival Canadiens has Neely reconsidering his options.

"I've been asked a bunch and right now I am on the fence," the 50-year-old said. "The last game I played was the Winter Classic at Fenway Park, so it has been a while. I don't know, but it is going to be hard to not do it, but right now I am on the fence."

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