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Eruzione praises Winter Classic as premier showcase

by Adam Kimelman / NHL.com

For Mike Eruzione, talking about the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins brought back memories of his youth playing outside around Boston.

All are good. Some are a little less … appetizing.

"We used to go down to the swamp and we used to skate on the swamp from 8 in the morning until it got dark," Eruzione said. "When you got thirsty you'd cut a hole in the ice and you'd drink out of the water.

"It's kind of disgusting but we're all still alive today."

Eruzione, the hero of the United States gold-medal effort at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, certainly has graduated past drinking swamp water. But his memories of growing up playing on outdoor rinks, lakes and even flooded tennis courts stays strong. And he's trying to pass it on to the next generation.

"I have three little grandkids now," he said. "They started a learn-to-skate [program] last week. I can't wait for the winter to get a little colder out there and freeze my swimming pool in the backyard and let my grandkids go outdoors and skate. That's what hockey was all about, going outdoors and skating."

He's also looking forward to watching the Bruins and Canadiens take the ice at Gillette Stadium on Friday (1 p.m. ET; NBC, TVA Sports, SN). And not just the current players.

"This is a day we can showcase the sport of ice hockey and how it originated," said Eruzione, who after the Winter Classic will head to Orlando for the Diamond Resorts Invitational celebrity golf tournament Jan. 13-16. "To have the history of the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins play is one thing. Then to have the alumni game (NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game presented by Molson Canadian) the night before; you're going to see some of greatest Bruins and Montreal Canadiens players. They even added a twist this year where there's going to be the women's professional game (the Outdoor Women's Classic presented by Scotiabank) played prior to the alumni game. You're going to see the team from Boston play a team from Montreal. It shows how far the sport has grown."

And if Eruzione had his way, there would be a lot more outdoor games, because of how they showcase the NHL, the players and the game of hockey.

"I think they should sometimes have more of these games," he said. "It brings back the reason all of us in our era started playing the game of hockey. I talk to high school kids today … and I ask how many kids have skated outdoors. You might get one kid that raises his hand. I think in our era you ask how many people skated indoors and you might get one or two guys that raise their hand. It's a great promotion of the game of hockey itself.

"To have it here in Gillette Stadium, home of the Patriots, just adds to the people to understand how great this game is. I wish more people would follow it and understand, not just once a year but all season long, how talented our players are. I'm excited about it. I think it's going to be awesome."

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