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Winter Classic excites Mass. natives Flynn, Hayes

by Shawn Roarke / NHL.com

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- As a fan of the NFL's New England Patriots, Brian Flynn has been to Gillette Stadium many times.

He never envisioned he would get the chance to play hockey here.

But with the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic taking place at Gillette on Jan. 1 (1 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports), that opportunity may become reality for Flynn, a center with the Montreal Canadiens.

"It's exciting for me," he said. "I try to come here to see a preseason game every year and it's such a great stadium."

Flynn grew up 45 minutes away, in Lynnfield, Mass. He said that is where he fell in love with the game that may now lead him to one of hockey's biggest stages, the NHL Winter Classic.

"I grew up playing on a lot of ponds after school and at night," Flynn said Wednesday during a press conference to promote the NHL Winter Classic. "We'd get the floodlights out there. My uncle and cousins live on a pond right down the street from me, so I'd fly down there after school or late at night on the weekends, get out there and shovel the snow off. That's when hockey is a blast, playing out there all day long with your buddies and you don't even want to go in and get dinner or anything. You just want to keep going."

Flynn was traded to Montreal from the Buffalo Sabres before the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline. He played nine regular-season games with the Canadiens and six during the Stanley Cup Playoffs before the Canadiens were eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Second Round.

In June, he signed a contract with the Canadiens to return for the 2015-16 season and a chance to play in the NHL Winter Classic. Flynn played outdoors in 2012 with the University of Maine at the Frozen Fenway games at Fenway Park in Boston.

He said the fact this chance comes wearing the colors of the team many of his family and friends consider the Bruins' biggest enemy is no big deal.

"It doesn't feel weird at all," Flynn said. "I think they are two of the best franchises to play for. You know the tradition in Montreal and how the fans are, and you know it probably is the best place to play hockey in the world, and I have an awesome opportunity.

"Maybe my buddies or family did give me a hard time right away when I did get traded, but after that everyone knows it is the greatest place to play hockey, so it has worked out great."

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Another trade may allow Boston Bruins forward Jimmy Hayes, another local product, to play in the NHL Winter Classic. Hayes, who grew up in Dorchester, Mass., was traded from the Florida Panthers to the Bruins on July 1.

"Getting traded here, and then hearing about the Winter Classic, it's going to be a great moment for me," he said. "All my friends are excited for it. That was one of the first things they mentioned when I got traded. So to be a part of it is going to be awesome."

Hayes played for Boston College outdoors at Fenway Park in 2010 against Boston University. Good friends with Flynn, he said he is having trouble comprehending the opportunity that could await each of them here on New Year's Day.

"It's going to be insane for me," Hayes said.

Hayes hasn't experienced the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry firsthand, but he's well aware of it having grown up in Boston; he also heard some stories Wednesday.

"Just playing on other teams, playing against Boston, playing against Montreal, going into their buildings and seeing the atmosphere is amazing as a visitor from a team playing in Florida or playing in Chicago," he said. "But now to be able to play Boston against Montreal, it's just going to up the ante a lot more."

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