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Graves: Classic celebrates hockey's purest form

by Dan Rosen /
As a Toronto kid who became a star in New York, Rangers alum Adam Graves has never had a great affinity for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Graves, though, absolutely remembers watching ex-Flyers stars like Bobby Clarke, Reggie Leach, Bill Barber and Bernie Parent -- admiring their toughness while always dreaming that one day he could be just like them and make it to the National Hockey League.
On Saturday, at Citizens Bank Park, Graves will get a small taste of what it felt like to play against the Broad Street Bullies of the 1970s when he suits up with several former teammates in the Molson Canadian 2012 NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game (1 p.m. ET, Versus).
Adam Graves
Left wing - career staTs
GOALS: 329 | ASST: 287 | PTS: 616
GAMES PLAYED: 1,152 | +/-: -25
Graves spoke to about his thoughts on what the experience will be like, especially when he and Clarke are going after a loose puck. Here is what he had to say: You're about to play in an alumni game against some of the players you grew up watching. Have you thought about what you'll do if you get into a puck battle in the corner with Bobby Clarke?
"Be ready. And, that certainly goes for the guys I'm going to be lucky enough to play alongside. … I can remember when (Clarke) played with Reggie Leach and (Bill) Barber and Bernie Parent was the goalie. I'll feel like a kid again. Then to get out on the ice with the new era guys like Eric Lindros and games and the rivalry that we had with them, the Legion of Doom…Philadelphia has had some fantastic teams over the years, some great players and champions and, for fans, it'll give them the opportunity to see all these different eras on the ice at the same time. That's a big thrill." You were a Leafs fan, not a Flyers fan; but, in a way, is this a childhood dream come true to be able to get on the ice with all these guys that are legends and were in their primes when you were watching?


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Graves: "Without question. I can remember as a kid, growing up it seemed like it was so far away. You never thought you'd have the opportunity to play in the National Hockey League, let alone play an entire career in the National Hockey League, be a Ranger, and then have this opportunity later in life where they say, 'You know what, you're getting on in years, but we're going to allow you to be a kid again. We're going to allow you to get on this outdoor rink and play in front of the great fans of the National Hockey League, certainly Ranger fans, and play against guys you admired as a kid.' It doesn't get any better than that." It is an alumni game, an exhibition game just for fun, but it is Flyers-Rangers, so do you expect there to be some intensity on Saturday?
"It'll be interesting to see how it shakes out. I think everyone is looking forward to it. I know friends and family and other people I've been running into are saying, 'How much have you been skating?' I keep saying, 'Not enough.' The closer you get the more you want to skate because the excitement builds and the urgency builds to make sure you're ready to play.
"But, I think it's going to be a celebration of hockey and that, for me, is what it's all about." How much did you play outside when you were growing up, and how strong are those memories?
"One of our neighbors a couple of doors down had an outdoor rink in the backyard. It was an entire backyard. I'll never forget from the time it got cold, coming home from school, dropping our bags -- and if there was homework it was never enough to keep you in for long -- grabbing our skates, going over, getting on the ice, playing for a couple of hours and then hearing my mom or dad yell, 'Dinner time.' You would quickly take off your skates, throw on your boots, run home, eat within 10 minutes, and then run back, put your skates back on and play. And, when there was an extended break like winter break and you had all day because there was no school, you would literally be on the ice eight hours a day. It was until your toes were frozen, really tingling because it was so cold. But, those are great memories.
"That is hockey at its purest and this whole Winter Classic is a celebration of that."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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