On cue, the snow, the Bruins and the excitement, arrived at the Winter Classic ice rink at Fenway Park Thursday.
And from the moment they left the locker room – make that the dugout – the Bruins were enjoying the moment.
“It was amazing when we walked up the stairs, the snow was coming down, seeing Fenway Park in the background,” center Patrice Bergeron said. “It was amazing. A great day, a great moment, great experience for me, I’m just glad to be part of it.”
After posing for a team picture – one with knits hats, one without – the players and coaches became reacquainted with simple concept of outdoor hockey. When it snows, you shovel.
“I remember when I was a kid that was my first job,” Bruins center Marc Savard said. “I think I was around 13 years old and shoveled the outdoor rink and opened and closed the shack.”
Things were a little different Thursday, as pro athletes and coaches jumped into grab snow shovels, although the team’s young guns seemed to be handling most of the snow removal duties.
“I kind of noticed that the younger guys had grabbed shovels, I figured I better help out too,” said rookie Adam McQuaid, obviously a quick study at the ways and means of young NHL players.
He was not alone.
“I was just doing what I was told, I remember it from the old days,” second-year forward Blake Wheeler said. “Back in the day, when it was snowing that hard we’d just go inside and wait for it to clear.”
The snow certainly added to the atmosphere inside Fenway, as did the up-tempo music and sea of fans making there way to the “Free Fan Festival” across the street.
Seat cushions were in place, albeit with a dusting of fresh snow. The left field scoreboard had replaced the American League East standings with those of the NHL’s Northeast Division.
Home plate had been transformed into a music stage, set for James Taylor to sing the US national anthem, Daniel Powter the Canadian version and the Dropkick Murphy’s to punctuate the day with “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.”
There was no doubt, the Winter Classic was in play.
“It’s crazy,” said Steve Begin, “It’s fun. The ice was unbelievable. It was special. I haven’t skated in snow in a long time.”
While the snow was fun for practice, players were in general agreement that it would not be a good thing for the game itself.
“Hopefully we are going to get some clear ice out there because with the snow it makes it pretty interesting,” Wheeler said. “If not, that’s the way it is and we have to adapt to it and play the game accordingly.”
Aside from the obvious changes from a regular NHL game, the outdoor contest presents some interesting qualities.
With Tim Thomas likely to get the starting nod in goal, Tuukka Rask could be one of the coldest players on the ice as he sits through the game. But in keeping with his usual calm approach, Rask’s taking it all in stride.
“Someone told me there were seat warmers and you could always drink hot chocolate,” said Rask. “Gear up, put a tuc on and enjoy. No stress for me. If I’m cold, then I’m cold.”
There has also never been a fight in a Winter Classic game. Former Flyers enforcer Dave “the hammer “ Schultz, was wondering about that while skating at the rink earlier in the week.
“There’s never been one so at this point, I think we should try it out,” grinned Schultz. “Flyers and Bruins – its gotta happen.”
Shawn Thornton would be a potential candidate to drop the gloves for the Bruins, but he wasn’t expressing any interest in looking to start a brawl.
“I honestly have never gone into a hockey game thinking about fighting, this is no different,” Thornton said while holding court in David Ortiz’s locker. “I’m going to go play hockey as if it were any other game. If something needs to be addressed, it will be addressed. I’m sure it’s the same on the other side.”
Fights or no fights, snow or no snow, when all was said and done there was little doubt the Bruins were enjoying the experience.
“It’s great, it’s awesome,” said center David Krejci. “I can’t wait to go out there tomorrow and see 35,000 people cheering for you and being excited about the game.”
Drop the puck.