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Rangers, Flyers reflect on playing outdoors as kids

by Dan Rosen
PHILADELPHIA -- As soon as the players stepped out of their respective dugouts for practice on Sunday, the cool air hit them in the face. They could look up and see a blue sky, and look beyond the center-field bleachers and over Ashburn Alley here at Citizens Bank Park and see nothing but the Philadelphia skyline in the distance.
They were outdoors and they were about to play some hockey. To the Rangers and Flyers, it's hard to find a better place to be.
Many of the players said they felt like kids again, skating around in the open air, their gear on, sweating, and zipping the puck around. talked to several about what kind of memories came rushing back to them on Sunday during the practice sessions:
Jakub Voracek, Flyers
Jakub Voracek
Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 23
SOG: 72 | +/-: 8
"At Christmas time and New Year's Eve, I went with my buddies and played outside. It was on a pond, pick-up games, but still it's the same. You're having fun and it's still a battle. You're playing for something. And, especially against your buddies you always want to win. It's going to be like that tomorrow, but it's a real NHL game.

"Sometimes when I was a kid, 11- or 10-years-old, I could spend all day out there. There would be a little lunch break to go home, have lunch, change clothes and go back until the sun went down. It was a great time, and I'm happy we can do it (Monday)."
Ryan Callahan, Rangers
"Near our house in Rochester there was an outdoor pond that me, my dad and my brother would suit up and go out there and play on. We had the sticks out. My dad used to go out and check the ice, make sure it was thick enough, and come back and tell us we're good to go. My brother is six years older than me, so I tried to keep up with him and chase him around. It was a good time. You're not worried about anything; you're just out there playing and enjoying yourself.
"Just being outside in that element again with your gear on, skating around, it definitely brings you back and makes you feel like a little kid again."
Zac Rinaldo, Flyers


Winter Classic start time moved to 3pm
The NHL, in conjunction with the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, announced Monday's 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will start at 3 p.m. ET. READ MORE ›
"Screwing around on the ice with my buddies, hanging out, just shooting on a net. I had an ice rink in my uncle's backyard every Christmas, so we would go back there and me and my cousin would just mess around on the ice. It just brought back those memories from back home in Hamilton.
"It was coming home for Christmas from playing on junior teams. I only had three or four days, and maybe 20 of my family members would be eating and then me and my cousin would be on the ice, passing, shooting, having fun. When it was time to eat, we'd come back in, eat and go right back out there after.
"And, my little cousin is actually here so he got to go on the ice with me (for the family skate). He's the same cousin that I used to go on the ice with growing up. That was really cool."
Brandon Prust, Rangers
"I had a lake in my parents' backyard and as soon as that froze over, we were out there playing hockey on it. I had a lot of outdoor games, always playing on the pond growing up in London. They were fun and definitely competitive. I think that's the thing with hockey. It's always competitive. Even back home you see guys playing pickup hockey and they're hitting each other and getting into scraps.
"I think just the fact of being outside, you're playing in the fresh air, the wind is blowing, the sun is shining or the moon is out and you're playing under the lights. It's going to be a totally different experience for us. But, as soon as the puck drops that all goes away and we're playing the same game we're used to playing."
Scott Hartnell, Flyers
"As soon as I stepped on the ice it was the same feeling as (it was) in Boston (for the 2010 Winter Classic). The ice has a different sound to it being outside, but the feel of it, it's just awesome and it's awesome to get out there and play outside. To be in the NHL, who would have thought it would be just like this. But you're like a kid in a candy store. It's kind of fun to see a guy like (Jaromir) Jagr, a 40-year-old man, he's super excited and didn't want to get off the ice. That's when you know you play for the love of the game.
"The best part about the game in Boston was the sounds of the hockey game. The skates off the ice, the sound of a puck hitting a stick -- you don't have screaming fans right on you, they're away from you, so it's just the hockey game. That's really neat, and (Sunday's practice) gave me chills with that. Then you get the fans in here (Monday) and they're chanting, it'll be pretty neat."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl
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