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Classic, Legends games buzz to BU-BC encounter

by Bob Snow
There were 38,112 on hand last week for the sold-out 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic extravaganza at Boston's Fenway Park.

The Sun Life Frozen Fenway Hockey East rendition this week will not only have the same number of fans saturating Fenway, but also an even heartier provincial flavor.

"It's going to be jammed," said BC coach Jerry York. "Just think: a BU-BC game under the Fenway lights on a Friday night."

"We might just dress in our dorm rooms and walk over here," joked Jack Parker about his campus's proximity just across Commonwealth Avenue from Fenway Park.

Jim Craig played for Parker -- before leading the U.S. team to Olympic gold in Lake Placid in the "Miracle on Ice" in 1980 -- a career that included three Beanpots tournaments, and winning the national championship in 1978.

"This will be bigger than any Beanpot," said Craig, who grew up 20 miles from Fenway, about this week's game as he left the Winter Classic last week. "This place will be surreal."
Long-time college-hockey fan Jerry Hailer, from nearby Milton will make it to Fenway both Fridays. "It will be every bit as hot as the NHL Classic because of who they are," he said about BU and BC.

Ditto for David Hughes from Lynnfield. "Hopefully, all those college kids saw this game. The BU-BC rivalry will be even more so in Fenway Park. The second you walked in it felt unbelievable; just awesome," he said as he walked Yawkey Way outside Fenway Park last Friday night. 

Two former college players on the Bruins and one Flyer chimed in post-game after the Winter Classic with their impressions of this week's game.

"This is a lot more of an intimate venue," said Bruins defenseman Matt Hunwick who played at Michigan. "Fans are right on top of you. It's a memory you'll cherish forever and will be outstanding for the students and alumni and hockey fans from Massachusetts."

"The city will embrace this, a great rivalry," said the Bruins' Byron Bitz who played at Cornell. "It'll be a great event."

"Looking back," said former New Hampshire Wildcat and Flyers' rookie James van Riemsdyk after the Winter Classic, "it would have been nice to have a doubleheader here with UNH and Vermont or Maine."
Are events like these mega outdoor games appreciated more by the current college and pro crop of players -- or those retired from the game and years removed from playing until sunset on glazed ponds?

"Every [Flyer] in here had their eyes light up when they went out," smiled van Riemsdyk post game. "I'm sure it'll be the same next week for the college guys."
"I almost feel like it might be more exciting for us," said NHL Hall of Famer and former Bruin and BC Eagle Brian Leetch after playing in Saturday's Bruins Legends Classic. "The college kids are probably unsure of what to expect. But when they get here, they'll be blown away by the setup and everything else."

Eagles' forward Jimmy Hayes hails from the nearby Boston neighborhood of Dorchester. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound sophomore was a giddy kid on Fenway's turf as he talked about his New Year's anticipations when the game was announced in August.

"I'm not sure there are many true city guys on any team," said Hayes. "It's a huge experience being from Dorchester just a couple of 'T' stops away is really unbelievable. I'll be up every night now thinking about this game."

Hayes' teammate, super sniper junior Joe Whitney, grew up playing on the natural and artificial frozen sheets in a suburb just north of Boston.

"This is a dream come true since growing up in Reading," said the Eagles 5-foot-6 junior. "I don't really know what to say. Growing up, I went to the BU-BC games and all the BC games every Friday night. It's really unbelievable to be from around Boston and be a part of it. Hopefully, all that outdoor practice will pay off. We use to go out late at night when the rink lights were still on, and if it was snowing we'd shovel it off with my two brothers and bring the net down."

A former Terrier and a former Eagle -- who faced each other in Beanpot games and regular-season encounters during their local college days in the mid-'80s –- summed up the excitement of last weekend and the anticipation of Friday's game. 

"I can't imagine playing in a BU uniform here," said Cleon Daskalakis, former standout Terrier goaltender who also played three years in a Bruins uniform. "Imagine a college kid coming out here with this opportunity."

Bob Sweeney is the director of development for the Bruins Foundation, a major recipient of the Legends game proceeds. He also had standout careers for BC and the Bruins as a first-round draft pick.

"Yesterday was unbelievable with that great finish; today to play in the snow a little bit was awesome," he said about the Winter Classic and Legends games. "The snow really affected your stick handling and carrying the puck -- just like when you were a kid out on the ponds. Some of these college kids, maybe a lot of them never skated on ponds. I grew up on them; not coming home until it was pitch dark.

"They'll appreciate it, and I'm sure the atmosphere will be just like the past two days."
"We've been talking about this game over a number of years,"  Parker said.

"I hope we win," said BU sophomore defenseman and nearby Marshfield native David Warsofsky, "but also some crazy weather out there. Some cold and a little snow would be fun."

The game is finally here -- with a forecast for 20 degrees at first faceoff -- and light snow.

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