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NHL players from Boston enjoy chance to chirp each other during pause

Flyers' Hayes, Rangers' Kreider, Bruins' Wagner, Panthers' Yandle on video call

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

Wicked awesome.

Sorry, but that's the only way to describe the video call arranged by the NHL on Monday.

It was Patriots' Day, a holiday in Massachusetts commemorating the first battles of the Revolutionary War.

In normal times, the Boston Marathon would run in the streets. The Boston Red Sox would play at Fenway Park.

Sometimes, the Boston Bruins would play at TD Garden in the Stanley Cup Playoffs too.

"It's a huge celebration," said New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider, who is from Boxford, Massachusetts, and went to Boston College. "Some people have a little bit too much fun earlier in the day, and they're cooked by the afternoon. But it's definitely, I think, probably the most fun day in Boston, especially as a college kid."

These are not normal times, however, because of the coronavirus pandemic. The marathon was not run. The Red Sox did not play. The NHL season is on pause.

So to bring back a little fun, the NHL brought together three players from the Boston area: Kreider, Bruins forward Chris Wagner and Philadelphia Flyers forward Kevin Hayes.

Then the NHL added a surprise co-host, another player from the Boston area, the player voted funniest in the League in an NHL Players' Association poll released March 31: Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle.

Yandle wore a shirt with "MASSACHUSETTS" on it. Hayes wore a hoodie with "Boston" and a hat with a Tom Brady logo, even though the quarterback has left the New England Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"I don't know why you're wearing that hat, Kev," Wagner said.

"We have to be Buccaneers fans now, I think," Kreider said.

"I do (root for them)," Hayes said. "I am."

"I'm here for the rebuild," Wagner said.

It was like they were sitting in a basement or bar, remembering their roots, chirping each other, competing to be the biggest Boston guy, while knowing, deep down, they were all from the same place in terms of city and sport. The longer they talked, the thicker their accents sounded.

"It's very prideful," Hayes said. "There's a lot of Boston guys that are in the NHL, and we're all pretty tight. A lot of us work out together. A lot of us have played together. We kind of all have the same upbringing a little bit.

Video: Hayes, Kreider and Wagner on NHL Pause

"I know I look forward to, every time we play against the guys from Boston, to catch up with them before or after the game and kind of joke around with them a little bit on the ice."

Kreider's Boston roots run so deep that his uncle is in the background of the famous photo of Bobby Orr scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal at Boston Garden in 1970.

Hayes is from Dorchester, Massachusetts.

"Every time we'd go to a different town, they would be like, 'Aw, here come the kids from Dorchester. They're going to cause some trouble,'" said Hayes, who went on to play at Boston College from 2010-14. "But we always had pretty good teams."

"I don't remember you guys being good," Yandle told him. "But I remember (being) worried about (somebody) stealing your wallet or something."

Wagner is from Walpole, Massachusetts.

"You gotta be the only guy from Walpole to ever even make it to high school hockey, never mind the NHL," Yandle chirped.

Yandle is from Milton, Massachusetts. He asked the others where they thought everyone fit on the Boston spectrum. At one end is Kreider, who, among other things, plays multiple instruments and speaks multiple languages.

"I've seen the piano," Hayes told Kreider. "I've seen the guitar. I've seen you speak Russian."

"Heard," Yandle corrected.

At the other end, well, the further you go, the bigger the badge of honor.

"I'm more blue-collar than Kev, I think," Wagner said.

"You leave your pumpkins outside," Hayes said.

What does that have to do with anything? Well, what does it say about your neighborhood? Hayes said he used to stay at Wagner's house on Saturdays, because he'd go to church with him and his family on Sundays. The first time he stayed there, he asked his parents if they were actually leaving their pumpkins outside.

"If we left our pumpkins outside, they would get smashed," Hayes said. "I was going to smash them if my parents left them outside."

"His parents fell asleep, and you smashed his pumpkins?" Yandle said, imagining what happened next.

"They're like, 'What happened, Kev?'" Wagner said, playing along.

"'I don't know,'" Yandle said, mimicking Hayes. "'That's a weird coincidence.'"

After Yandle told the others he considered them white-collar, he was asked where he put himself.

"Blue," he said.

"No," Hayes said. "You lived in Milton. You married a girl from Dorchester …"

The banter could have gone on forever.

The pause seems like it's taking forever. Let's hope it ends soon so the NHL season can resume and the Boston guys can go back to chirping each other on the ice. Yandle closed the call by borrowing the Patriots motto.

"We all miss going to the rink every day and playing, and playing in front of the fans," he said. "I think if everybody does their job … like they say in the New England era, do your job, and do your part. Stay home, stay distanced from people, and we'll get this taken care of."

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