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Role as Winter Classic host has Flyers awed, excited

by Adam Kimelman
PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Flyers forward Scott Hartnell is a baseball fan who takes in a few Phillies games every season at Citizens Bank Park.
This summer, though, instead of seeing an infield diamond, he's been envisioning how a hockey rink might look.
"I've been to a bunch of games here this summer," he told "Just sitting up watching the game, imagining where the rink would be, how it's going to be positioned, coming down on (Rangers goalie Henrik) Lundqvist and making a move and scoring, those things go through your head."
Monday, Hartnell got an early look at the rink layout during a press conference to announce the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic would be played here at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Phillies.
The Flyers will host the fifth edition of the League's annual winter extravaganza. Team chairman Ed Snider, who helped found the franchise in 1966, said he never envisioned a day like this would be possible. For a team that's won two Stanley Cups, played in the Cup Final eight times and participated in numerous memorable games, the events of Jan. 2, 2012 could become a part of that enviable pantheon.

"I've been to a bunch of games here this summer. Just sitting up watching the game, imagining where the rink would be, how it's going to be positioned, coming down on (Rangers goalie Henrik) Lundqvist and making a move and scoring, those things go through your head" -- Flyers forward Scott Hartnell

"It ranks right up there with the top five, top 10 events ever for the Flyers," said Snider. "It's a big event. Just something that's very exciting for us."
This won't be the first time the Flyers play outside -- they were the guests at the 2010 Classic when it was played in Boston's Fenway Park.
Defenseman Matt Carle told having experienced what it's like to play outdoors could help when they hit the outdoor ice in January.
"I think it's the media expectations and what to deal with," he said. "The daily routine of getting to the game. Just a bunch of little details will help a lot. There's lot of uncertainly the first time around, what you're going to feel like on the ice, what to wear -- all those little things that help you be more successful when the game comes around."
How much it actually helps when the puck drops, however, is up for debate.
"I don't think any of that gives you an advantage," Flyers captain Chris Pronger said. "The team playing the best and feels good about themselves and all the rest of that (will win). You're playing outdoors, it's a big game. There's a lot of notoriety, lot of media scrutiny on the game, and that usually brings out the best in players. I'm sure this game will be no different."
One thing different will be the addition of HBO cameras following the team around for "24/7 Flyers/Rangers:  Road To The NHL Winter Classic."


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"I don't think that'll change anything, to be honest," said Pronger. "It's a great lead-up to the game, great way to promote the sport. We had a meeting with HBO and they talked about how much '24/7' was watched and different demographics that enjoyed it and got a chance to see it; non-hockey people who have since began watching the sport and understanding it a little bit better."
Carle said he talked to teammate Maxime Talbot, who was one of the stars of last year's "24/7" show that followed the Penguins and Capitals in the lead-in to the 2011 Winter Classic.
"He said it's not that bad and they had a lot fun doing it last year," said Carle.
Carle said he watched last year's four-episode run and enjoyed it greatly.
"I think it was hard not to watch," he said. "We all know what it's like for us on a daily basis, but each team is different. As a player you want to see how other teams interact with each other, what their schedules are. … It's fun to see different side of things."
With his oversized personality, Pronger is expected to have a major role in the series, and he said he's ready to give fans a look at what he's really like.
"I guess I've got to show them something new," he said. "Bring out my 'A' game."
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, in making the announcement, said Philadelphia hosting the Winter Classic was "the worst-kept secret in sports." However, Snider still was mesmerized by the day's events.
"I think today is the first day that it's starting to sink in," he said. "As the days go by, it's going to sink in even more and more."
It's also the culmination of something he's hoped for since seeing the 2008 Winter Classic in Buffalo.
"I realized it with the first outdoor game," he said. "Prior to that, I never visualized anything like that. It's a credit to the League for creating an event like this. We're just thrilled to be a part of it."
Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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